Residents voiced their displeasure about custom, fine metal studio move to Port Richmond
By Lindsey Nolen
The big argument at the Wednesday, June 7 Port Richmond On Patrol And Civic meeting was: Should the community metalworking studio, Metal Incorporated, be permitted to open shop in Port Richmond? Many of the local residents thought not.
Having previously set up its operations at 2130 E. Arizona St., this past year, the custom fine metal studio decided it needed to acquire a larger space for production. Although having searched all across Philly, even finding one suitable location in the Northeast, the company’s owners, Joe Campbell and Jeff Kentner, decided on wanting to relocate to Port Richmond due to its rich industrial history.
To secure the 600 square-foot nonconforming industrial garage/warehouse that since pre-1944 had been used as a garage, a prepacked food distribution center, a space for the manufacturing of wood and shipping boxes, for truck storage and later for the maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment, Metal Incorporated seeks a use variance from the city Zoning Board.
“What we do is architectural ironwork and architectural metalwork, that is the main part of our business,” Campbell said. “What that does is that allows us to bring in enough income to support the second part of our business, which is educational. We are a community metalworking shop, and what that means is that we offer classes and the use of the shop to the community.”
He added the projects the company brings in and works on are the way Metal Incorporated sustains itself, and ultimately what funds the shop. Additional, he explained the company is backed by the non-profit the Culture Trust of Philadelphia, which acts as a sponsor and allows Metal Incorporated to operate a portion of its endeavors as a non-profit as well.
“We have the intention of offering classes again, as we did have them previously when we were on Arizona Street in Kensington,” said Campbell, who operated the business at that location for four years. “The reason we moved out was because we were looking for more space so that we could offer more. We want to teach the next generation [of metalworkers].”
Despite its for-profit and non-profit goals, neighbors directly affected by the rezoning came to the PROPAC meeting to voice their concerns. Joann Marino expressed her opinion that since the business has moved into the neighborhood, her husband’s truck had been scraped, they had paint thrown at the back of their house and a brick was thrown through their next door neighbor’s window — which she believe occurred because she had called the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses & Inspections on the company.
“This does not belong in a residential neighborhood,” Marino said. “I live right across the street. There’s 24-hour access and they rent the space out to these different guys, nobody knows who they are and nobody knows about these different people. They all have licenses from [different states].”
She continued by mentioning her worry the workers are going to be inside the studio all night banging and welding. She warned attendees she believes Metal Incorporated is “laying low” within the space because they have an attorney and to get their zoning request approved.
“On a quiet evening, you can hear the sound of sledgehammers pounding red hot metal and the buzz of welders breaking the precious silence of the night,” Marino said. “Once this zoning gets changed, the owner will be able to put any type of business he wants in that space, and there’s not going to be a thing anyone can do about it.”
Carmella Smith, who has lived in her house on the street for 31 years, said Campbell and Kentner do not produce the alleged pounding noises throughout the night.
In response to the many comments and concerns, Campbell explained the intended hours of operation for the company’s five employees, including the two owners, are roughly 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. He also said he would be willing to no longer rent the space to third parties, at the request of many of the concerned residents.
At the end of the zoning discussion, PROPAC took a vote on who was for or against Metal Incorporated opening its business at 2609 E. Cambria St. The final vote tallied at five for and 12 against the zoning change out of the residents who would be directly affected, and 32 in support, 9 who abstained from the vote and 53 members of the general public against the business.
While PROPAC President Ken Paul plans to put together a letter to the city noting the civic organization’s voting results, ultimately the Zoning Board will make a final decision in regard to whether the business will be approved for the zoning change of use variance. Metal Incorporated has its zoning hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 2 at 9:30 a.m.