The management partners for Chestnut Hill Plaza, at 7630 Germantown Ave., are working with a franchise owner o Rita’s Water Ice to bring a shop into Chestnut Hill.
Allen Roomberg, one of the management team for the shopping center, appeared before the Development Review Committee Tuesday night to discuss the option. The shopping center has a restrictive covenant with the Chestnut Hill Community Association that, among other provisions, prevents “fast food” establishments from leasing within the center. Roomberg asked the committee to consider whether a Rita’s would be considered fast food, and if so, could an exception be made.
“It’s been a long time and our group is struggling mightily,” Roomberg said, mentioning that he thinks Rita’s would be a perfect tenant for the space, which has been 50 percent vacant since early this year.
John Thain, owner of three Rita’s franchises, and a Chestnut Hill resident, was there to describe his plans for a Chestnut Hill location. Thain described an indoor Rita’s unlike the more familiar model with a take-out window. There would be a service area and counters for indoor dining. Thain also proposed, depending on community support, benches outside the shop for patrons.
At least one community member has already expressed support for a Rita’s at the location.
Liz Bales, a resident of the 100 block of West Mermaid Lane, said she and a few neighbors with whom she discussed the possibility, are in favor of a Rita’s.
“I feel the right fit for the right food place is better than the vacancies,” Bales said. “Something wholesome that we could walk to and would be a gathering place for families would be nice.”
Timing is of the essence, however. Roomberg and Thain have an agreement in principle for the location, but do not want to wait more than 45 days.
“It take about 90 to 120 days to open. If we wait until January, I lose half of my first year in business. I have made that mistake before. I will sign a lease somewhere between now and the middle of December,” Thain said.
The Development Review Committee recommended that the Chestnut Hill Business Association weighs in on whether Rita’s constitutes a fast food establishment, and that the Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee review the covenant and make a recommendation for a special meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association Board, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14.
of a potential Chestnut Hill Rita's.