A proposal to bring restaurateur Dave Magrogan's newest dining concept to Manayunk has hit a wall – one that conceivably shrouds a Dumpster.
At a Manayunk Neighborhood Council meeting in March, Magrogan presented his plans for a restaurant promoting local, seasonal foods.
Known as Harvest, the restaurant would be located on the 4200 block of Main St. at the site of a Pottery Barn which closed earlier this year.
It's part of a growing local chain of specialty restaurants managed by Magrogan, familiar to many 'Yunkers as the proprietor of Kildare's Irish Pub. The 9,000 square-foot space would be converted into a working restaurant capable of seating just more than 200 people on two floors.
With three restaurants currently in operation – University City, Glen Mills and North Wales – Harvest is described by staff as being an "upscale casual" restaurant with a seasonally-changing menu and emphasis on organic foods and drinks harvested locally.
Magrogan explained this spring that that there was no definitive schedule for converting the former retail space into a restaurant, but hoped to "capture the fall menu" with a September opening date.
With no opposition voiced from the community – and a signed copy of a four-party restaurant agreement in hand – Magrogan received the green light from the MNC. However, in November, Harvest remains to be reaped.
Explaining the delay
At a recent meeting, MNC leaders claimed that the original community agreement stipulated that Harvest would store restaurant waste indoors.
However, Manayunk-based attorney William O'Brien said that Magrogan, his client, determined that the building could not accommodate that.
O'Brien said that Magrogan was willing to provide Dumpsters outside that would be hidden from view by solid – not chain-link – enclosures behind the restaurant. Currently, Dumpsters are already in place on the site, and are in use by nearby restaurant Bourbon Blue and residents of the Canal House Apartments.
While the trash receptacles are located on a roadway behind the former Pottery Barn that intersects with Rector Street, O'Brien insisted that the thoroughfare is not dedicated to public usage.
"The important thing is that this will not look like a back alley," said O'Brien, who added that the size of Dumpsters and amount of usage would dictate the frequency of trash collection. "There's some degree of trust required."
MNC President Kevin Smith said the neighborhood is now at an "impasse" with Harvest over the trash disposal, because of the switch from internal to external storage and lingering questions over placement, size and appearance of the proposed enclosure.
O'Brien was reluctant to commit to a specific size due to unknown expectations of usage, but said that a large space was available behind the building for the Dumpsters and any enclosures.
However, MNC zoning chair John Hunter voiced concern over "incremental changes" that he said have occurred in the plan, resulting in what he called "a vague proposal."
"We met with them in March, and we're now in November, and they still don't know what they're doing?" asked Hunter, who said that no notice of the proposed trash enclosure was made in the restaurant's zoning application.
O'Brien countered that the application was filed in August, prior to the most recent round of conversations with MNC, and insisted that his client had no knowledge of internal-storage issues.
While O'Brien said that he was was amenable to reviewing new agreement language provided by MNC, Hunter was not swayed.
"We've been asking these questions for four months, and haven't gotten an answer," he said. "If [Magrogan] doesn't come to the meetings, why should we take on an element of trust?"
In March, Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corp., said that she was excited about the potential of adding another high-end restaurant to the Manayunk business district, anchoring the southern end of the Main St. commercial corridor.
Reached after the MNC meeting, Lipton expressed disappointment with the impasse.
She said that interior trash storage is not a typical arrangement in her district, and would add additional expense and potential sanitary hazards to the Harvest project.
Lipton doubted that the issue would delay the zoning board's decision as, per O'Brien, external trash storage is legal under city code. The variances necessary for the project to go forward are related to parking requirements – not to waste removal.
"It's a shame," she said. "I'd love to have it open by the holiday season."
While Magrogan wasn't available for comment on Friday, O'Brien insisted that the proposed enclosure is a workable solution.
"We're all on the same page," he said. "We want to keep restaurant usage subject to review so that issues like trash can be identified."
Harvest's hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustments regarding parking-related variances is scheduled for at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.