The flourishing food scene along East Passyunk Avenue is hardly a secret these days — even casual gastronomes have been dropping chefs’ names like Styer, Prawlucki, Sabatino, Kearse and Cicala for a minute now. For those tracking industry minutiae more vigilantly, another neighborhood name has become a fixture: the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation, or PARC.
The nonprofit — born of the embattled Citizens’ Alliance but sporting a new name, new leadership and a smaller footprint — has been steered by a board headed by Sam Sherman for just under two years. In that time, they’ve implemented an assertive, holistic approach to furthering the local dining cause.
It’s no coincidence PARC’s fingerprints are all over many of the biggest food stories of the year. Tenants see real perks. Their first restaurant overhaul was at 1911 E. Passyunk Ave., now home to much-lauded Will. Chris Kearse, a first-time chef/owner, gave input from the earliest design stages. When Fond relocated into their new PARC-owned 11th and Tasker digs earlier this month, they scored a prime location and a space built hand-in-hand with their new landlord.
There’s a price break, too. Rents fall “a little under market,” explains Sherman. The aim is two-fold: to attract start-ups who promise something new for the neighborhood but lack funds, and to make businesses accessible to residents. “At least 50 percent of our commercial tenants walk to work,” Sherman estimates. Joncarl Lachman — of PARC’s next big project, Noord — plans to live right above his restaurant.
Eventually, PARC wants to capitalize on dining-driven crowds with more retail options staying open later. “We’re working to get something like Fante’s down here now,” Sherman explains, “because some people are going to King of Prussia for that stuff.” And Sherman says next year will see another big round of acquisitions, bringing at least a few more restaurants to bolster the neighborhood’s dining-destination rep well into the future.
The Vetri Foundation
The nonprofit is working to revamp school lunches — both by improving nutritional value and by getting kids to slow down and enjoy healthy food choices.
Jeremy Nolan and Doug Hager and Kelly Schmitz-Hager of the modern-German Brauhaus Schmitz are pushing diners beyond schnitzel and brat. This year they expanded into a neighboring property on South Street and also opened Wursthaus Schmitz in Reading Terminal Market
Joe Cicala’s highly praised restaurant has brought the cuisine of Abruzzo into the local spotlight.
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