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December 20, 2023

Fishtown has lured developers for years. Now, a Shake Shack is on its way – to the dismay of some residents

The fast food restaurant is part of a 61-unit apartment complex set to open on Frankford Avenue next fall

Development Neighborhoods
Fishtown Shake Shack COURTESY/MSC; The Fishtown Collective

The Fishtown Collective, a 61-unit apartment complex being built at 1359 Frankford Ave., will have Shake Shack and Sweetgreen restaurants. A rendering of the building, which is under construction, is shown above.

A Shake Shake is coming to Frankford Avenue in Fishtown.

For many in the neighborhood, the imminent arrival of a popular, national fast food chain elicits excitement. For others, it sparks anxiety about overdevelopment and the impact on rent costs and parking spaces. Either way, the completion of the mixed-use development underway at 1359 Frankford Ave. seemingly will herald a big change for the neighborhood.

The building is being constructed on an L-shaped lot nestled between Frankford Avenue and Crease Street, turning what was once little more than a parking lot into the visual centerpiece of the block.

In addition to Shake Shack, the 61-unit, four-story structure that's being called the Fishtown Collective also will house a Sweetgreen and another to-be-determined business. Those businesses will be joined on the ground floor by four apartments, a residential lobby and the building's trash and mail rooms, floor plans published on OCF Realty's blog show.

The pending arrival of national chain restaurants in Fishtown has been met with mixed reactions by residents. In a thread on a neighborhood Facebook group, some expressed their love of Shake Shack and Sweetgreen. Others decried the increasing difficulty faced by small, independent businesses on the neighborhood's bustling commercial corridor as its development boom pushes rent prices higher.

The historically working-class neighborhood has experienced a dramatic uptick in new construction, residents, restaurants and other businesses for more than a decade. The developer attempts to capitalize on that trendiness in its brochure for 1539 Frankford Ave., calling  Fishtown "Philadelphia's 'it' neighborhood' and stating it has "become the face of the city's nationally recognized renaissance and urban renewal."

1359 Frankford Ave floor plan, FishtownCOURTESY/MSC/The Fishtown Collective

A floor plan showing the ground floor of the new building at 1359 Frankford Ave in Fishtown.

For residents, Fishtown's popularity has spawned challenges, like concerns about pedestrian safety and nuisances caused by late-night food trucks.

Some new development projects also have a way of squeezing out smaller, local businesses.

In an ironic illustration of that reality, the same page of the Fishtown Collective brochure that heralds the trendiness of the neighborhood includes a photograph of the Rocket Cat Cafe – an independently-owned coffee shop that no longer exists. The former business on Frankford Avenue was acquired by developers and demolished in 2017. Across the street from the now-vacant site of the former Rocket Cat Cafe, The Nut Hut Saloon – a longtime dive bar – soon will be replaced by a renovated, upscale bar and restaurant under new ownership. 

"Can't say that I'm super happy about the national chains coming to Frankford Ave," Fishtown resident Leo Voloshin wrote on the neighborhood's Facebook page. "I prefer the local home-grown businesses. I don't mind the progress but would have liked to see a (HipCityVeg) or something else that's Philly-based."

The marketing brochure for the Fishtown Collective says construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2024.