It's five years since Beneficial Bank left its 1916 Horace Trumbauer-designed gray stone home at 1200 Chestnut St. It's more than two years since developer Paul Giegerich started lobbying to turn the high-ceilinged bank space into a $9 million fancy pool hall and bar and restaurant (designed by David Schultz's DAS, which also did Union Trust down the street), like the Amsterdam Billiard Club Giegerich co-owns at 110 E. 11th St. in Manhattan.
Giegerich says he's getting close: He's got an ordinance introduced by city councilman Frank DiCicco and approved by the Planning Commission last week. But the plan is also being contested by residents of the nearby White Building, who have opposed both a state liquor license and the Historical Commission approval (hearing tomorrow.)
Giegerich notes the White Building was redeveloped by Tony Goldman's real estate company, which has breathed some life into what had been an aging corner of Center City. But he says it's Goldman's local boss,White resident Craig Grossman, who has most actively opposed his project (tentatively called 1200 Bank). Grossman hasn't returned my calls.
Who likes pool halls, and why don't some people? "There was an era when it was associated with gambling and drinking and prostitution," in John O'Hara stories and kitchen-sink-realism paintings and films noir, Giegerich said. So, in Philadelphia's old-fashioned licensing system, pool remains "a regulated use, lumped in with tattoo parlors and porn shops." Even though today's pool players are more likely to have learned the game in college frat houses and rich kids' basements.