Oneida Park Getting a Facelift

Oneida Park Buildings and Sky

Developer Envisions ‘Old South Gaylord’; Plans Include 5,000 Sq. Ft. Restaurant

Compiled by Cara DeGette

GPHN Editor

The following is a synopsis of what was discussed on May 6 during the monthly meeting of the Greater Park Hill Community, Inc.  The next community meeting is Thursday, June 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at 2823 Fairfax St. It is free and open to the public, and everyone is welcome.

The new owner of the Oneida Park Center says he envisions transforming the business block in the mold of an Old South Gaylord or Old South Pearl Street development – references to the wildly successful and highly congested business blocks in the Washington Park neighborhood southwest of Park Hill.

First-time developer Todd Snyder and partner Rick Firmine, have purchased all of the buildings on the Oneida Street business block between 22nd and 23rd avenues in east Park Hill, save for the Park Hill Motors building on the north end of the block.

Snyder, who is also a commercial real estate broker, detailed his vision for the properties during the May Greater Park Hill Community meeting and in a subsequent newspaper interview.

Snyder does not plan to tear down any of the buildings on the block. He does, however, plan to repaint them and update the colors – currently light peach with turquoise awnings. Snyder said he also plans to repair the iconic Oneida Park Center sign that stands sentinel over the block.

The greatest change, which will likely have the biggest impact on the surrounding neighborhood, is at 22nd Avenue on the southwest side of the block. Currently, a corner grocery store, liquor store and the Tiger Point of Sales business are in operation there.

Snyder and his partner envision a 5,000 square foot restaurant at the corner of 22nd and Oneida. The liquor store will move to the north end of the block, at 23rd Avenue. As of press time, it is unclear whether the corner store will move to another storefront on the block.

For comparison purposes, a 5,000-square restaurant would be more than twice the size of Desmond, the restaurant across the street. The South Philly Cheese Steak restaurant is also across the street. Both have several remaining years on their leases. In addition, Snyder is also working to incorporate an ice cream shop and a coffee shop or diner on the southwest side of the block, near the Spicy Thai II restaurant, which will also remain. Anchoring the restaurants would be a courtyard – which is currently a paved lot used for customer and tenant parking.

Oneida Park Street and Buildings

“The courtyard will more often then not serve as an outdoor gathering spot, a neighborhood gathering spot.” Snyder said. It would be designed to serve as a space where kids can play and run around, and also be host to farmers markets and occasional weekend festivals, he said. The timeframe for the courtyard to be built and open for business is early next year, he said.

Snyder acknowledges that several parking spaces will be eliminated with the installation of a courtyard, but he maintains that there is room for a net gain of parking spots across the street. In addition, he and his partner plan to install bike racks. However, there is currently no plan for any substantial increases for parking on this business block that already is often filled to capacity.

Oneida Park Redevelopment Rendering

Tony Uva, the owner of Allegra’s Pizza on Oneida, says neighbors in the surrounding area are likely in for a surprise.

“When the neighborhood finds out, there is going to be a pretty big outcry,” Uva predicted of the parking situation. “There will be cars all over the neighborhood.”

During the community meeting, Uva challenged the claim that all tenants were copacetic with the changes and are being taken care of. His lease, he said, is up next year. He had been interested in expanding to an open space next door to his restaurant but was informed his lease would not be renewed. In a subsequent interview, Uva said that he is pursuing other possibilities, including opening an Allegra’s Pizza on 28th and Fairfax Street, as part of the new Park Hill Commons development on that block.

The Oneida Park Center currently has a 20 percent vacancy rate. In addition to Al- legra’s Pizza likely moving, the owners of the laundromat on 23rd Avenue have not renewed their lease. Park Hill Vet, which is on the west side of the street, is planning to expand its space. On the east side of Oneida, Love Fashion Nails, as well as a hair salon, have at least two years left on their leases.

Snyder confirmed that rents will increase for new and renewing tenants; however, he says rents will be “significantly” below market. In addition, he and his partner are not interested in pursuing chain or corporate-owned businesses; they prefer independents that will assimilate with the neighborhood. “We don’t want to come in and turn it into a Highlands Ranch, we want everyone in the neighborhood to come and enjoy this place.”