Naked Philly Blog Posts – OCF Realty http://www.ocfrealty.com Tue, 20 Nov 2018 22:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.11 http://www.ocfrealty.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/favicon2.png Naked Philly Blog Posts – OCF Realty http://www.ocfrealty.com 32 32 Building on Berks Achieves Peak Metal Panel Status http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/south-kensington/building-berks-achieves-peak-metal-panel-status http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/south-kensington/building-berks-achieves-peak-metal-panel-status#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2018 21:20:34 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1244667 The post Building on Berks Achieves Peak Metal Panel Status appeared first on OCF Realty.

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When a contractor builds a new (low rise) structure, they first frame out the building in wood, then they sheath the building in plywood or zip board (the green sheathing you see around town), and finally they clad the building with the stuff you see on the outside when it’s done. Probably the common choice for facade cladding in Philadelphia is brick, with accent materials thrown in for architectural interest, and/or because they’re cheaper than brick. A decade ago, stucco was used extensively, with stucco bays being the defining feature of countless “Graduate Hospital Specials.” More recently, we’ve seen a trend toward other materials, with composite aluminum panels being one of the most popular choices in town.

And don’t get us wrong- these panels are a fine material! They’re durable, reasonably priced, and look better than several alternatives. But from where we sit, they’re at their best when used an an accent. Put differently, we wouldn’t expect a developer to go with a plan where these metal panels are the primary cladding material for a new building. You can probably see where this is going…

Over the summer

Several months ago, we told you about an addition at 1851 Germantown Ave., where developers were adding a couple stories onto an existing one-story building, with plans for a day care on the first floor and 6 apartments on the upper levels. Framing was just getting started at that time, so we didn’t know what the finished product was going to look like. We definitely couldn’t have predicted it would look like this:

View on Berks
From the south

Not sure there’s much else to say, this building kind of speaks for itself.

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Lily on Christian Will Fill New Gap Next to Old Banca Calabrese http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/bella-vista/lily-christian-will-fill-new-gap-next-old-banca-calabrese http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/bella-vista/lily-christian-will-fill-new-gap-next-old-banca-calabrese#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 19:07:21 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1244646 The post Lily on Christian Will Fill New Gap Next to Old Banca Calabrese appeared first on OCF Realty.

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It’s been a bit of a roller coaster year for the properties on the southeast corner of 7th & Christian, but the thrills are now over and the ride looks like it’ll be fairly boring from here on out. In the spring, we drew your attention to this location, pointing out that the building at the corner was built in the early 1900s as the home of Banca Calabrese. The bank folded during the Great Depression, but its building has survived to the present day, though the years have stripped it of many of its original details. A couple doors down was the the birthplace of Mario Lanza, a famous tenor from South Philly. Despite the history of these buildings, neither was designated as historic, so it was not a surprise to learn that developers had bought the properties, intended to tear them down, and replace them with seven town homes with parking.

In the past

The community was not interested in this plan, and Bella Vista Neighbors Association wrote a lengthy opposition letter to the ZBA. In the face of this reaction, the developers pivoted to a new plan. Over the summer, we discovered rehab work ongoing at the Banca Calabrese building, which was a pretty good indication that it wasn’t getting torn down. We learned that the developers had decided to preserve the former bank and refashion it into a small mixed-use building. They didn’t have a clear plan for the adjacent properties, though demolition was still very much in the cards. Today, the bank building is looking much better than it did before (but not nearly as good as it looked when it was first built), and there’s a sizable vacant lot next door.

Banca Calabrese building, looking rehabbed
Site next door

There’s a sign posted on the fence in front of the vacant lot, indicating that the developers have decided what they’re going to do here. That plan, unsurprisingly, will proceed by-right, and will entail the construction of a quartet of triplexes whose units will be offered for sale as condos. Lily Development, the developer in question, is calling the project Lily on Christian, and was kind enough to include a rendering on their Instagram feed. The rendering shows some sharp new condo buildings, if you ask us.

Project rendering

Considering the project that’s now moving forward, we have to wonder whether the neighbors that opposed the original plan are pleased with how things ended up. The original proposal called for seven homes with ten parking spaces, and now the developers are building twelve new units, plus the apartments in the bank building, with no parking. We’re all for density, and from an urbanist perspective, the elimination of a curb cut is a plus for walkability and eyes on the street. But we don’t live near here, so don’t have to deal with the parking repercussions or any other quality of life issues from this project. If given a mulligan, would the community take a different stance? Or do the neighbors truly prefer condos to the alternative? If you live in the area, please chime in!

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Delorean Time Machine: 1423 Manning Street http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/rittenhouse/delorean-time-machine-1423-manning-street http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/rittenhouse/delorean-time-machine-1423-manning-street#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 21:20:33 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1243510 The post Delorean Time Machine: 1423 Manning Street appeared first on OCF Realty.

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Tucked away on a small street in Center City, a small portion of 1850s Philadelphia survives, reminding us of the forgotten era of a city before cars. This little building on the 1400 block of Manning has been forgotten by pretty much everyone, except us!

View of the building
Looking up at Academy House

John Ellis was an immigrant who came to Philadelphia on June 17th, 1833 from his birthplace of Donemana in County Tyrone, Ireland. He began a livery stable business in 1839 and grew to have several locations around town. In 1851, he set about building the largest livery stable in town on a small street called Westmoreland between Broad and 15th Street in a then-undeveloped section of Center City. This new stable would have 2 stories, with stables on the first floor and a large space for riding on the second.

In addition to being a livery stable, this location was also a riding school where Ellis himself served as an instructor. One 1853 write-up about the Ellis Riding School lauded “Mr. Ellis himself is one of the most graceful horsemen in the city and as a teacher he is unrivaled. His horses have all been selected with a view to safety and one is sure dropping in at any time to meet with agreeable company. Mr. Ellis’s references are of the first character.”

Not a photo of Ellis

In addition to being a riding school, it was the drilling location for the still-extant First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry. It later became the same for the Washington Grays and D Company First Infantry of the United States Marine Corps Reserve. In 1859, John Ellis aimed to expand the building and purchased a 17’ x 75’ lot that was adjacent to the riding academy at what was by this point called 1423 Lardner Street. It was here he built a small annex– this is the portion that still stands today.

An old grainy photo of the building

After Ellis died, the old riding academy building was passed through two more generations of Ellis’s and continued use as a livery stable. In 1921, Lee D.C. Ellis sold the old family stable to a group of investors: William H. Godfrey, Karl J. Birnbauer, and Samuel Whitaker. The trio recognized that the old stable and its annex were two different properties. They sold the annex portion, now called 1423 Manning St., in 1922 to Lee and Jacob J. Shubert, who then incorporated it into the Shubert Building/Theatre they had built 6 years earlier, using it for dressing rooms behind the stage of the theatre. Its address then became 250 South Broad Street Parcel B. The rest of the stable was demolished and replaced with a 6-story parking garage, which they flipped to a parking operator in 1924, who in turn flipped it to another parking operator in 1931.

View of the annex and the garage in the 1930s

The history of the small annex of the stable went completely forgotten until 1976, when the new owners of the Shubert Theatre disputed the lot lines of the then-under construction Academy House condominium, built in place of the aforementioned parking garage. They contended that a 10-foot-wide easement between the old stable annex and the original stable property had been created in 1850 and was never struck, even though Ellis built right over it. The easement was acquired by the builders of the 6-story parking garage, who re-exposed it until a parking operator-owner covered it with a ramp that connected it to a surface parking lot facing Locust Street, some time in the mid 20th century.

The owners of the Shubert Theatre, Philadelphia Musical Academy, and the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority collectively sued Academy House Inc for $5M, plus damages and fees. The owners claimed that they and the previous owner had warned the developers of Academy House about the easement multiple times before the property was even purchased, only to be ignored. Academy House Inc claimed that the Shubert Theater had not used the easement in several decades and that a door that faced the easement had been sealed up as far back as the 1940s.

The court case had a long build-up and didn’t get argued in front of the Pennsylvania Superior Court until May of 1985. The court sided with Academy House Inc, citing that the Shubert Theater had sealed its access to the easement several decades earlier, effectively abandoning it based on legal precedent.

Today, if one looks closely, they can see the outlines of the old brick facade of Ellis’ Riding School. Still in use as dressing rooms for what is now called the Merriam Theater, it was recently purchased as part of the sale of the theater building to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts for $10.64 Million. Plans call for the demolition of the heavily-altered Shubert  building above the theater and the construction of a 30+ story building in front of it, as seen in the image below.

Renovation graphic from Philly.com

Those plans, assuming they eventually move forward, will keep the Ellis’ Riding School annex intact, maintaining an unexpected connection on this block to the middle of the 19th century.

— Dennis Carlisle

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Kingsessing Church Changes Hands, Demolition Seems Likely http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/south-west-philadelphia/kingsessing-church-changes-hands-demolition-seems-likely http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/south-west-philadelphia/kingsessing-church-changes-hands-demolition-seems-likely#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 16:32:43 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1243485 The post Kingsessing Church Changes Hands, Demolition Seems Likely appeared first on OCF Realty.

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It was roughly half a decade ago that we directed your attention to the Word Tabernacle Baptist Church, a congregation that was worshiping out of a gorgeous building at 52nd & Chester, in Kingsessing. In the story, we expressed some degree of surprise that the congregation was able to use the building at all, considering the apparent roof damage and the missing/boarded up windows. Despite the active use of the building, we suspected that it would only be a matter of time before building maintenance would prove too onerous for the church, and we predicted it would eventually go up for sale. Earlier this year, that’s exactly what happened.

View of the building
Facade on Chester Ave.
Closer look

The initial price tag was $900K, but the property ended up selling for just over a third of that initial asking price. With new ownership now in place and no historic designation, we have to think that the next step for this property will be demolition. And that’s a shame for this structure, which was built a little over a century ago for First United Presbyterian, designed by Joseph Huston. An associate of Frank Furness in his earlier years, Huston is perhaps best known for designing the Pennsylvania Capitol Building and serving time in prison for graft as a result of his involvement in the project. The church in question was constructed the year before that prison stay.

Large holes in the roof

We couldn’t tell you what’s coming here, as we don’t see any new permits on the parcel at this time. But the property covers a little over half an acre and permits multi-family use as a matter of right, so we’d expect a new apartment building here which will surely pale in comparison, architecturally, to the building that’s there now. Figure an adaptive reuse is fairly unlikely, though there’s one example in the area, the Cloisters Apartments in the former Saint Agatha’s, that could provide a template to reuse this building. That project was done as an affordable development, which could certainly make sense in Kingsessing, but we are thinking that demolition and student housing development are a much likelier outcome.

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The Fletcher Twins, Not an Obnoxious Pair of Kids From Your Elementary School http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/fishtown/fletcher-twins-not-obnoxious-pair-kids-elementary-school http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/fishtown/fletcher-twins-not-obnoxious-pair-kids-elementary-school#comments Fri, 16 Nov 2018 21:42:57 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1240909 The post The Fletcher Twins, Not an Obnoxious Pair of Kids From Your Elementary School appeared first on OCF Realty.

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For all of the development that Fishtown has seen over the last decade or so, you’d think there wouldn’t be any vacant land left to redevelop. But that’s not actually the case, and the neighborhood still has plenty of room to grow. Perhaps counterintuitively, the street with the biggest development potential is probably Frankford Avenue, despite that fact that the corridor is already in pretty good shape already. But if you walk up and down Frankford, you’ll quickly note the number of vacant lots, as well as numerous properties that are not currently utilized in the highest and best fashion. This isn’t nearly as much the case in residential parts of the neighborhood, where developers have filled in the vast majority of smaller sized vacant lots during the market’s current hot streak. Be that as it may, there are still a handful of vacancies to be found.

View in the past

2356 E. Fletcher St. was one such vacancy, a double-wide property which contained a single home, historically. That home was demoed at some point more than a decade ago, and the parcel has sat empty over the years since then. But that’s not the case right now, as developers bought the property at the beginning of this year, acquiring it for $325K. Unsurprisingly, they’re now building a pair of town homes, dubbing the project the ‘Fletcher Twins.’

Current view
View of the homes

The homes have a few different things going for them, starting with parking. You can see, the homes are tucked back from the street, and will each be able to accommodate two cars in their front yards. On a related note, each home is extra-wide, measuring 19′, which will allow cars to park next to each other out front. If the homes were standard sixteen footers, they would only be able to handle one car apiece. And while setback homes with front-access parking are objectively suboptimal from an urban planning perspective, they will allow for standard row home designs inside, maximizing interior square footage. In that department, each home will have more space than most new construction homes, with almost 3,500 sqft inside.

If you think these homes sound great and want to buy one of them, we’re sorry to tell you that you’re out of luck. They went on the market over the summer at a $700K asking price, and both went under agreement within a couple weeks. But perhaps a similar project could come down the pike someday, on this very block.

Nice old building down the block

Just a few doors down, there’s an old warehouse or stable with boarded up windows, which we brought to your attention a couple years ago. Like we said at the time, this building is located in the rear of a really great looking home with an address on E. Susquehanna Street, and would be a great candidate for a subdivision and redevelopment project. Thus far, the owners of this property haven’t pursued this approach, electing to keep the seemingly vacant building on Fletcher Street intact. But as vacant lots continue to disappear in Fishtown, offers will only go up for this property, and at a certain point maybe the owners will consider making a move.

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Thanks to GoPuff, Former Finnigan’s Wake is Going Poof http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/northern-liberties/thanks-gopuff-former-finnigans-wake-going-poof http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/northern-liberties/thanks-gopuff-former-finnigans-wake-going-poof#comments Thu, 15 Nov 2018 17:23:19 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1238811 The post Thanks to GoPuff, Former Finnigan’s Wake is Going Poof appeared first on OCF Realty.

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GoPuff is a true Philadelphia success story. For those unfamiliar, this company is essentially an online convenience store, delivering the stuff that you’d typically get from your local Wawa or 7-11 for a mere $1.95 charge. When it started, the company’s approach targeting a the niche market of hookah delivery, hence the name. But they quickly pivoted to the broader online convenience store model, and they’ve since expanded to dozens of cities and raised over $8M in venture capital investments. Did we mention the company was founded by a couple of Drexel undergrads in 2013? Like we said, it’s a Philadelphia success story that should only grow more satisfying as the company continues to expand its reach.

The thing about growing companies is that they tend to require more and more space to run their operation. That’s why GoPuff will soon be moving into a new headquarters space at 3rd & Spring Garden, despite moving to their current office just last year. Their current space is a converted church in the Callowhill neighborhood, and their future home is the former Finnigan’s Wake, a bro-bar that nobody ever confused with a religious institution. You may recall, the former Finnigan’s closed a few years back and was listed for sale, somehow not finding a buyer at at list price of $3.5M.

The former Finnigan's Wake
View from the east

In 2015, we told you that a sale appeared imminent, and that the new owners intended to build a two-story addition and convert the building into office space. Those plans fell through, came back, and apparently fell through again, as the building has remained largely untouched until very recently. A reader tipped us off about a month ago about some interior demolition work, and we tried to get some information but couldn’t come up with anything. Earlier this week though, Philly.com dropped the news that GoPuff will be moving to this location in the near future. Not only will they be renovating the former Finnigan’s space, but they will also expand their footprint into the former Joe Hand Boxing Gym space behind the former bar, on Green Street. Look for a total of 30K sqft, and we don’t believe that previously planned addition is going to end up happening.

View at 3rd & Green
Looking west on Green Street

In conjunction with the opening of a new headquarters, GoPuff also plans to open 10 new warehouses in the region in the next few years. The new office space will allow the company to create 150 new jobs, while the warehouses will result in a few hundred more. Obviously, new jobs are great, and so is the renovation of the well situated but oddly vacant former bar on Spring Garden Street. Hey, this might not be the 50,000 25,000 jobs that Amazon HQ2 would have brought to the city, but it also isn’t costing the City and State $5.7B in various incentives. Slow and steady, folks, we’re heading in the right direction. One Finnigan’s Wake at a time.

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Food Truck Garage on the Outs on Christian Street http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/graduate-hospital/food-truck-garage-outs-christian-street http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/graduate-hospital/food-truck-garage-outs-christian-street#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:05:14 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1237174 The post Food Truck Garage on the Outs on Christian Street appeared first on OCF Realty.

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The Graduate Hospital neighborhood has many qualities that make it an attractive place to live, with the most obvious being that it’s the neighborhood right next to the Rittenhouse neighborhood. That proximity gets residents easy access to Rittenhouse Square and downtown shopping and restaurants, but without the associated bustle and congestion. We’ve argued previously that Graduate is largely a bedroom community, and that it would greatly benefit from additional neighborhood retail. Prevailing zoning and a growing tide of NIMBYism will only make that tougher in the coming years, so figure the number of neighborhood spots isn’t likely to increase very much moving forward.

Given the nature of the neighborhood, the majority of its blocks are homes and home-sized apartment buildings from stem to stern. Some blocks are broken up by other buildings, like schools or churches, breaking up the rhythm. And then there are blocks like the 2000 block of Christian Street, which has never had much of a rhythm in the first place. On the south side, the combination of Shiloh Baptist Church and Saint Charles Borromeo only leaves space for seven residential buildings. The northern side is more intact, with the Philly Free School taking up about a mere quarter of the block. But there’s another building that has always been different from the rest on the north side of the 2000 block of Christian.

North side of the block
South side of the block

There’s a two-story, double-wide building at 2027-29 Christian St. which has been used for many years as an overnight parking facility for food trucks. We always guessed that a couple of homes had been demoed here at some point, with this building rising in their place. But looking at some historic maps, we see that there properties have been used as stables and/or garages for well over a century. This may have represented a reasonable use in the early 20th century, but we don’t imagine there are many people who would argue that this is the ideal location for food truck parking in 2018.

Food truck garage

So it’s with no sadness whatsoever that we direct your attention to the Notice of Demolition that’s currently posted to the property. As for what’s happening next, we couldn’t tell you. The instinctive first guess would be a couple of new homes, but the parcel is zoned for multi-family use, so we might instead see a couple of duplexes or triplexes. So far, we don’t even see new ownership info in public record to try to figure out who we can ask about this. One thing does seem certain though, that food trucks won’t be parking in whatever it is that eventually gets built here.

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Demolition at 3rd & Poplar, Significant Project Should Happen Next http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/northern-liberties/demolition-3rd-poplar-significant-project-happen-next http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/northern-liberties/demolition-3rd-poplar-significant-project-happen-next#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2018 16:47:22 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1235908 The post Demolition at 3rd & Poplar, Significant Project Should Happen Next appeared first on OCF Realty.

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We were in Northern Liberties the other day, and noticed some fairly significant demolition activity on the southwest corner of 3rd & Poplar. There had been a couple of old warehouses/garages on this corner, with a collection of pet-friendly businesses occupying said buildings. Pet store Doggie Style, a veterinarian, and the Saved Me adoption services were all here, along with a large dog run in the rear- obviously that’s no longer the case.

In the past
Current view

Earlier this year, we told you to expect this demolition, and shared plans for a significant new project here. That project will entail three homes on Orianna Street, ten homes on Poplar Street, and a new mixed-use building on 3rd Street with 25 apartments and retail on the first floor. The homes will each have a parking space, and there will be 12 additional spots associated with the project located on the site. The architecture work comes from Atrium Design Group, and from where we sit, they’ve designed a project that will represent a huge step up for this property over what was here before. Not only do we like the look of the buildings that are planned, but we would argue that residential with a dash of commercial makes much more sense here than its previous use.

Aerial view of the project
In the future

Doggie Style obviously needed to find a new home, and we were a little surprised to see that they relocated to a new space directly across the street. This should limit confusion from long term customers, at least.

Relocated Doggie Style, across the street

You may remember, the southeast corner of this intersection was previously a section of the old Ortlieb’s brewery, which was demoed back in 2014. In its place, a project called Ortlieb Square has appeared, bringing eighteen duplexes and a mixed-use building at the corner, whose ground floor is occupied by Doggie Style, like we said. Looking at Ortlieb Square alongside the planned project across the street, we’re seeing two significant industrial parcels going mostly residential in a very short time frame. This is consistent with what we’ve seen all over Northern Liberties over the last several years, as its industrial past fades more and more into history. We figure this trend will only continue until there’s no old warehouses left in this part of town. Unfortunately, most of the construction replacing these old buildings won’t look as nice as the project that’s coming soon at 3rd & Poplar.

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Wide Home On the Way for Narrow Street in Bella Vista http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/bella-vista/wide-home-way-narrow-street-bella-vista http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/bella-vista/wide-home-way-narrow-street-bella-vista#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 21:09:25 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1234154 The post Wide Home On the Way for Narrow Street in Bella Vista appeared first on OCF Realty.

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Last year, we directed your attention to the 800 block of Percy Street, an incredibly skinny block in Bella Vista with some hidden but significant storm water management infrastructure. We noted that most of the lots on the block only go back about 30 feet, making for shallow homes with tiny rear yards. This was a fairly common condition in South Philly a hundred years ago, but as far as modern development standards are concerned, those are some little homes. That’s why developers combined three lots about a decade ago to build a wide but shallow new home on the northern end of the block. Ordinarily, combining lots isn’t a great approach, because building one big home is rarely more profitable than building two smaller homes. In this case, it was probably the only move that made sense.

Wide home on the 800 block of S. Percy Street

It’s possible this project has inspired a copycat just up the street. Developers bought 742 S. 9th St. last year, which they have since completely renovated and sold for $780K. When the developers bought this property, it came with three small properties on Percy Street, two of which were sitting vacant. There was a home at 713 S. Percy St., but they tore it down at some point over the last year.

In the past

A couple weeks ago, the developers brought 709-713 Percy St. to the ZBA, with a plan to combine the lots into one and build a single home with a garage. The project was met with support from near neighbors and got a letter of deferral from Bella Vista Neighbors Association, ultimately receiving approval from the ZBA. With that approval now in hand, we expect construction will get moving in the very near future.

Current view

We’re just eyeballing it, but we’re pretty sure the 700 block of S. Percy St. is even narrower than the 800 block. So we were pleased to see, noted in the letter to the ZBA from BVNA, that the developers are planning a home with a height and rear setbacks that are consistent with other homes in the neighborhood. In other words, it won’t go up four stories, like the home on the 800 block. Not that we have such a problem with that home, but we can understand why a four story home might give somebody pause on the 700 block. For such a narrow block, four stories would probably be a little much.

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New Apartment Building Will Cover Mural at 47th & Chestnut http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/west-philly/new-apartment-building-will-cover-mural-47th-chestnut http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/west-philly/new-apartment-building-will-cover-mural-47th-chestnut#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2018 16:11:04 +0000 http://www.ocfrealty.com/?post_type=naked-philly&p=1234138 The post New Apartment Building Will Cover Mural at 47th & Chestnut appeared first on OCF Realty.

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Real estate development has obviously changed dramatically over the last hundred years, though some aspects of the experience remain the same as they ever were. Today, if a developer gets their hands on a sizable parcel, it’s common practice to build a bunch of new homes that look exactly the same or at least strongly resemble each other. This was also true in the past, as you can see on various blocks all over the city. While West Philadelphia is known for its unique homes with wonderful architectural details, developers still practiced this approach on this side of the Schuylkill, sometimes to dramatic effect. The south side of the 4700 block of Chestnut Street is a fine example, with a row of twins with matching bays, cornices, setbacks, and brickwork. We believe these buildings were originally constructed as huge homes, but they’ve all been converted to apartment buildings as the decades have fallen off the calendar.

Handsome buildings on this block

Somewhere along the line, the building at 4702 Chestnut St. lost its twin, a building that we have to think matched its neighbor like the rest of the twins on the block. The land next to 4702 Chestnut St. has been sitting vacant for quite some time, and as is often the case in these situations, the Mural Arts Program stepped in to fill the void. For roughly a decade, the eastern wall of 4702 Chestnut St. has been home to a mural called “Dialogue on Race,” by artists Parris Stancell and Davis McShane. According to a post on the ERRANT blog, the creation of the mural was tied to a community project called B.R.I.D.G.E. (Bringing Race Into Dialogue for Greater Engagement).

Foundation and some steel

If you look at the image above, you’ll realize that we weren’t just drawn to this corner by the mural or the handsome row of matching twins. The corner of 47th & Chestnut is no longer sitting vacant, as a foundation appeared there at some point in the last year. In addition to the foundation, there’s a single story’s worth of steel that’s also in place, covering some of the mural while awaiting wood framing above. Looking at some rough elevations drawing from the Zoning Archive, we see that the new 15-unit apartment building will match the height of its neighbor and copy the setback, but the design of the new building will differ considerably from its neighbors. This comes as no surprise whatsoever, as they don’t (often) build ’em like they used to.

Convenient access to gas stations!

As we considered the wonderfully intact row of twins on the 4700 block of Chestnut as well as the new building that won’t match its neighbors, we looked around and started wondering about just how much the area has changed over the years. Looking at some historic maps, we see that there’s always been large-scale commercial uses on the north side of the 4600 and 4700 blocks of Chestnut and parts of the south side of the 4600 block as well. The gas station right across the street was previously a row of apartment buildings though, leading us to wonder how they might have looked… maybe like the twins across the street?

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