Naked Philly Blog Posts – OCF Realty Sat, 23 Feb 2019 00:42:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Naked Philly Blog Posts – OCF Realty 32 32 Spot Zoning Might Be the Last Hope for Saint Laurentius Church Fri, 22 Feb 2019 21:39:57 +0000 The post Spot Zoning Might Be the Last Hope for Saint Laurentius Church appeared first on OCF Realty.


If you read this blog with any regularity, you’re probably at least generally familiar with the concept of zoning. But for any first timers out there, please allow us to provide a very basic bit of background. Every property in Philadelphia has an underlying zoning designation that dictates what its owner is permitted do with said property. The vast majority of properties are zoned residential, commercial, or industrial, a concept that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever played SimCity. Zoning in Philadelphia is a bit more granular than in this epic video game though- for example, there are 16 different types of residential districts, each with different allowances and requirements for height, setbacks, density, parking, and so forth.

When a developer wants to build something that doesn’t fit within the requirements of their property’s zoning district, they must appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustments to receive permission to operate outside those requirements. To get heard at the ZBA, the developer must first present the project to the local community group; most of the time, the ZBA supports a variance if the community is on board and vice versa. That’s usually the end of the process, but every now and then a person or group of persons doesn’t agree with a ZBA ruling and they file an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas in an effort to overturn the ZBA. This can lead down a wormhole of legal challenges that can keep churning through different courts for a number of years, jamming up a project and tying up capital indefinitely.

That last paragraph aptly summarizes the plight of developer Leo Voloshin and the historic Saint Laurentius Church in Fishtown. In 2015, the Archdiocese put the historic church at 1608 E. Berks St. under contract with the developer, but Voloshin required a variance to convert the building into 23 apartments since it’s only zoned for single-family use. The ZBA granted the variance despite the community voting against the project, and a group called the Faithful Laurentians filed for an appeal, citing a desire to preserve the church as a sacred space and community center. This appeal was struck down when we last checked in on the property in the fall of 2017, but we expected the Faithful Laurentians to take their appeal to the Commonwealth Court. Our expectation proved accurate, and according to Plan Philly it was only last week that the Commonwealth Court struck down the appeal due to lack of standing.

In the meantime, the former church, which was not in such great shape when Voloshin first put it under agreement, has remained untouched, slowly deteriorating. Last month, several stones fell off the building’s facade, and thankfully nobody was injured. This incident served as a warning sign about the property’s condition, prompting action from City Council.

View from up the street
Closer view
Looking up

Shortly after the stones fell from the building, Council President Clarke introduced a bill to rezone the property from single family to multi-family use, which would cut off any possibility of additional appeals from the Faithful Laurentians. From a planning perspective, spot zoning is not good policy- neighborhood zoning should only occur in a holistic way, not one property at a time. But at this point, spot zoning is probably the only avenue by which the existing building will get converted into anything. Of course, once the property is spot zoned to multi-family, it’s still possible that the developer will determine that the building is too far gone to redevelop and after all this back and forth it could still end of getting demolished. The Historical Commission would need to give the ok for that to happen though.

Still, the introduction of this legislation signals the endgame for this property, which has been in a state of limbo for so many years. Figure by the spring, we’ll finally know what’s happening here and will be able to share a resolution. It’s also a pretty safe bet that no matter what happens, there will be some people in the neighborhood that’ll end up displeased with the outcome.

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Another Apartment Building Coming to the 1600 Block of PB Avenue Thu, 21 Feb 2019 18:33:45 +0000 The post Another Apartment Building Coming to the 1600 Block of PB Avenue appeared first on OCF Realty.


The diagonal Point Breeze Avenue was once the commercial heart of the Point Breeze neighborhood, allowing residents to shop for most of their needs without straying too far from home. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the corridor fell on very tough times over the second half of the 20th century, as businesses moved away or closed forever and many buildings sat vacant and eventually crumbled as the years rolled along. Vacant buildings and lots remain a challenge for the corridor, but they’re also an opportunity as the surrounding neighborhood sees unprecedented development activity.

Looking north on the 1600 block of PB Avenue

We visited the 1600 block of Point Breeze Avenue last summer, sharing news of four projects that were under construction- two little mixed-use buildings, a five-unit apartment building, and a duplex. As far as we can tell, one of those projects is now done (the duplex) and the other three are very close to the end of the road. Collectively, they will add thirteen units to the mix on Point Breeze Avenue, along with a pair of little commercial spaces that could convert to additional apartments if they don’t get rented by a business.

Demolition upcoming
Newer building to the north

We revisit this block not to tell you about those four buildings, but to share news of another building yet to come. We previously noted that 1631-35 Point Breeze Ave. was listed for sale, and shared our suspicion that developers would buy the property, demo the blighted building on the site, and build something new. That’s exactly what’s happened, as developers bought the three properties and are now looking to demo the existing building and build a six-unit building. Given the other projects that have recently sprouted on the block, we reckon it’ll fit right in. And yet we see a missed opportunity that’s tied to the underlying zoning designation of the properties on the block.

Beer garden across the street

The entire block is zoned RM-1, which allows multi-family construction but prohibits commercial use. This is not only the case on this block, but it’s true on the three blocks between Tasker and Moore. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us, since the commercial zoning comes back south of Moore and also because PB Ave. is supposed to serve as a commercial corridor, not an extension of the residential neighborhood. This suboptimal zoning designation is all the more aggravating when you recall that there’s a huge vacant lot on the 1600 block, the former Point Breeze Pop-up. This parcel could support a large mixed-use building with a game changing retail space on the first floor, but it will instead have no retail when it eventually gets developed, unless the owners want to go before the ZBA. Since a ZBA trip entails extra time and extra risk for a project, we don’t imagine that will happen. So look for another apartment building here at some point, and a missed opportunity for a substantial addition to an improving corridor.

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Development Opportunity Among Mansions Near Temple University? Wed, 20 Feb 2019 18:15:01 +0000 The post Development Opportunity Among Mansions Near Temple University? appeared first on OCF Realty.


In the years just before the founding of the school that would eventually be known as Temple University, wealthy Philadelphians were building spectacular mansions for themselves in the neighborhood which Temple would eventually come to occupy. While the greatest homes were probably located on North Broad Street, there were some pretty amazing homes constructed off Broad as well, with several located on the 1500 block of N. 16th Street. The Disston House at 1530 N. 16th St. is probably the most impressive edifice remaining on the block, and it’s fortunately been well maintained by Unity Baptist Church for many decades.

Looking south on the 1500 block of N. 16th St.
Awesome building at 1530 N. 16th St.

As the Disston House was converted from a single family home to a religious use, all of the other mansions remaining on this block have similarly undergone significant internal reworking over the last century plus. Most of the mansions have been chopped up into smaller units, though we have to imagine that at least a few have remained “one-family” while being occupied by a bunch of Temple students. At least one property on the block is currently vacant, though. 1531 N. 16th St. was most recently listed for sale for $1.9M, and the listing indicates it’s in shell condition inside. The exterior would suggest as much, though it was actively used as a seven-unit rental just a few years back. The listing also indicates that a developer could build a 16-unit building here by right, though any buyer might run into an issue because the existing building is on the Philadelphia Historic Register and any alteration, let alone demolition, would require permission from the Historical Commission. We don’t imagine they’d approve any exterior demo, so a buyer would be limited to renovation and a bit of new construction in the rear of the property, on Sydenham Street.

1531 N. 16th St., in need of renovation

You might notice, there’s a ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign on the fence next to the property we just described. We saw the sign as figured that the vacant lot at 1529 N. 16th St. was available, but we were only half right.

1527-29 N. 16th St., for sale by owner

If you’re interested in 1529 N. 16th St., you’ll also have to take the historic four-unit building next door. The parcel is 48′ wide, which we believe would allow for the construction of a second building on the lot, though this would also probably require permission from Historic. The asking price is $950K, which actually feels somewhat reasonable given the opportunities offered by the jumbo property. Unlike its neighbor to the north though, this one doesn’t go street to street, and you can already see a different developer is currently working on a pair of triplexes on Sydenham that will surely be offered as student housing in the fall. Figure it won’t be long until someone is building something at 1529 N. 16th St. and block the view of those triplexes- maybe it’ll be you?

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Delorean Time Machine: Inolex Chemical Complex Mon, 18 Feb 2019 16:26:07 +0000 The post Delorean Time Machine: Inolex Chemical Complex appeared first on OCF Realty.


Many Philadelphians take the nameless shopping district along the southern part of the city’s Delaware waterfront for granted even through the auto-oriented area of strip malls and big-box stores feels more like the Northeast than South Philly. Nonetheless, the vestiges of the area’s industrial roots are visible in all directions– the massive old industrial warehouses; some still in warehouse use, others repurposed as self-storage, strip clubs, retail stores, and a legendary wrestling venue. While some old industrial concerns still operate in this retail wonderland, none is more noticeable than the Inolex Chemical Company complex bounded by Snyder and Weccacoe Avenues, Wolf, Swanson, and Vandalia Streets. This monstrous complex consists of tarnished old industrial buildings tangled among pipes, wires, metal platforms, storage tanks, mechanical whatsits, and various unidentifiable objects behind a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire.

View at Swanson & Snyder
Further down Swanson
Cool old facade on Snyder Ave.

This industrial complex has been occupied by the same company (through numerous buy-outs and name-changes) since at least 1915. Only a couple of decades earlier had industrial concerns set themselves up in this area– it was previously an undeveloped wilderness with the exception of the ancient town of Martinville, whose only evidence of existence today is the irregular property outline of 2410 Weccacoe Avenue.

It was in 1915 that the D.B. Martin company purchased some buildings from the General Manufacturing Company, whose name still shows on the Snyder Avenue side of the complex. D.B. Martin was the largest meatpacking company on the east coast at the time and had just built an iconic high-tech slaughterhouse that still stands at 30th and Market Streets several years earlier. Their intended use of the building was to expand the portion of their company dedicated to manufacturing lubricants from animal fat. In fact, the company, when founded in 1892, completely focused on manufacturing lubricants before they were ever in the meatpacking business.

Map from 1922

By 1920, D.B. Martin was bought-out by their biggest competitor, Wilson and Company out of Chicago, and became the Wilson-Martin Company. After this merger, the Snyder and Swanson plant was expanded again and again and again over the next few decades until they nearly completely filled the entire block bounded by Snyder and Swanson Avenues, Weccacoe, Jackson, and Vandalia Streets. Part of the reason for this was Wilson-Martin’s innovation in creating new technology that allowed for continuous production of their products, blowing out the competition.

On September 1st, 1966, the city authorized the removal of the segment of Jackson Street between Vandalia and Swanson Streets to allow Wilson-Martin to expand its operation south all the way to Wolf Street, creating the 260K sqft parcel it stands on today. A year later, Wilson-Martin was purchased by conglomerate Ling-Temco-Vought, which split the parent company up into several concerns, the most well-known being the Wilson line of sporting goods. Wilson-Martin became Wilson Pharmaceutical and Chemical– the plant then produced over 100 pharmaceutical products. In 1970, after becoming a subsidiary of American Can Company, the company gave up on the animal products, changed its name to Wilson Diagnostics, and manufactured personal care and laboratory chemicals in addition to the pharmaceuticals. In 1974, the company was re-named once again to Inolex, which is an abbreviated portmanteau of the words innovation, technology, and excellence.

Map from 1961

In 1981, Inolex was purchased by its current owners and became a company upon itself instead of a subsidiary of larger corporations. While it produced many types of products over the following decades, Inolex is now focused on cosmetics and is considered a leader in the industry regarding sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices.

Map in 2018

Later this year, Inolex will open a new facility in Charlotte, North Carolina, figure it’ll be a little more modern than their South Philly location. But it’s probably safe to assume it won’t be quite as convenient to an Ikea.

–Dennis Carlisle

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Former Carpet Mill Getting Converted on E. Huntingdon Street Thu, 14 Feb 2019 15:03:59 +0000 The post Former Carpet Mill Getting Converted on E. Huntingdon Street appeared first on OCF Realty.


As we’ve reminded you on numerous occasions, Kensington was once known as the Workshop of the World, producing all kinds of stuff, from hats to chairs, dyes to toxic chemicals. As a result, the neighborhoods in the River Wards are a mix of homes which housed the factory workers and the factories which employed said workers. As times have changed and industry has largely left Philadelphia for greener and lower taxed pastures, we’ve predictably seen dramatic changes in the neighborhoods in which industry was once so central.

As expected, those neighborhoods first fell on hard times as the jobs left. Old industrial buildings sat vacant and unused, and eventually the same fate befell many homes. Eventually, a number of old buildings fell down, burned down, or met the wrecking ball. Slowly, especially over the last decade or so, new life has crept into many of these neighborhoods, as Fishtown, South Kensington, and East Kensington have experienced a wave of development and gentrification, with a steady trickle now moving into Port Richmond and Harrowgate, to a lesser extent. As these neighborhoods have seen new investment, developers have taken a diverse approach to residential projects, including renovation, new construction, and demolition. The same is true for old industrial buildings, though the reuse or demolition of an old factory is much more obvious and notable than that of a random home.

And this brings us to 2139 E. Huntingdon St., a pair of buildings that were originally home to the Franklin Carpet Mill. As the property’s nomination for the National Historic Register tells us, the three story building at the corner was constructed in 1879, and its taller neighbor was constructed in 1909. The carpet mill only used the second building for about two decades, closing down in 1932 and turning the property over to a company that made leather jackets, through the 1950s. In the following decades, the building was used for the manufacturing of textile fibers, though it has not been actively used in any way for a number of years. Developers purchased the property in 2016.

Historic view of the property
Current view
View of both buildings
Looking up

You can probably see in the photos above, there’s now active work taking place at the property. That work will entail the conversion of the smaller building into a small office building and the large building into 36 apartments. As we said, this property was nominated to the National Historic Register and while developers renovating properties on the register are eligible for tax credits, placement on the National Register doesn’t protect buildings from demolition. As far as we can tell, these buildings are not on the local historic register, which would offer such protections. So it’s with some pleasure that we’re seeing the developers move to renovate the existing buildings, even though they could tear them down if they were so inclined. The renovation of the buildings will not only provide some nice density just a couple blocks from Frankford Avenue, but it will also provide a strong link to the industrial past of the neighborhood. And we are looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Update: Here’s the project website, thanks to a commenter. And here’s an aerial rendering, cribbed from said website. Looks sweet.


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High End Triangular Home is Under Construction on Francis Street Wed, 13 Feb 2019 22:04:40 +0000 The post High End Triangular Home is Under Construction on Francis Street appeared first on OCF Realty.


Traditionally, 1802 Francis St. was used as a side yard for 1804 Francis St., the home next door. It was well maintained, fenced-in, landscaped, and an old listing indicates that it was also used as a small garden. When the owners of the home at 1804 decided to sell last year, they made the decision to sell their home to a person looking for a place to live, and to sell their yard to a developer. Naturally, that meant that the side yard was destined to become a new building.

Before we get into that building, we should mention that the triangular lot at 1802 Francis St. is created by the angular intersection of 18th and Francis Streets. Because most of Center City is organized around a grid, a lot of this shape would be quite unusual in other parts of town- but in Francisville, with its central artery Ridge Avenue running at an angle and numerous diagonal side streets, triangle-shaped lots are fairly common. This creates a challenge for the developer of the property, as builders generally prefer rectangles and their accompanying right angles. At 1802 Francis St., the odd shape of the lot provided an opportunity for a very unusual (and expensive) home for the area, which is now under construction.

View of the property
View from another angle
Francisville playground across the street
Project rendering

As we stated, this is a single-family home, though the property is zoned for commercial use. The developers needed to get a variance to exempt them from retail on the first floor and for a few dimensional considerations, created by the shape of the lot. Through that process, they got a variance to include a curb cut for two-car parking, which is a rare offering in this neighborhood where parking pressure has increased with additional development over the last decade. According to the project page from Design Pro Development, the home will include 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and 3,200 sqft of living space, with a $1.2M list price. Are you interested in the home? Too bad- it’s already under agreement. Good thing for you, there’s still a few triangle properties around Francisville on which you could build the angled home of your dreams. For now, at least.

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More Townhomes Are Coming to the Delaware Waterfront Tue, 12 Feb 2019 22:33:49 +0000 The post More Townhomes Are Coming to the Delaware Waterfront appeared first on OCF Realty.


Ask ten people and you’ll probably get ten opinions on what to do with the Delaware River waterfront. Historically, the Delaware was the center of commerce for Philadelphia, bringing goods in, shipping goods out, and providing countless jobs in this endeavor. As times have changed and shipping has become less of a thing in this town, the waterfront has undergone a massive transformation, and currently accommodates a mishmash of uses, including shopping centers, public space, residences of different shapes and sizes, a casino, and a mix of commercial and industrial buildings. The Central Delaware Zoning Overlay, implemented several years ago, attempts to direct development along the river so that it’s at a human scale and successfully integrates with the rest of the city, but proposals and new projects that have materialized since its passing have been all over the map. On the other hand, it’s a generally positive situation that we’re actually seeing development proposed along the Delaware, after years of stagnation.

Back in 2017, we told you that developers were planning a 19-home development at 1145 N. Delaware Ave., on a parcel that saw a 168-unit apartment building project fall through during the 2008 recession. We should note, we had previously told you that the parcel was available for purchase at auction, and the party that bought the lot at said auction ended up flipping it for a seven figure profit. So listen up when we tell you about development opportunities!

The 19-home project is currently under construction, and the development is being called the Views at Penn Treaty. Prices for these homes start at $1.9M, with sizes ranging from 4,000 sqft to 5,500 sqft and each home including two-car parking. On the plus side, these homes will have amazing river views, enjoy incredibly close proximity to Penn Treaty Park, and sit only three blocks from East Girard Avenue. On the negative side of the ledger, the garages will surely flood from time to time after major storms, Sugarhouse is around the corner, and access to Girard will require walking under I-95. Nevertheless, we suspect people will end up paying top dollar for these homes. And if they don’t like them for whatever reason, they’ll have an alternative nearby, since another 60 homes are planned for 1121 N. Delaware Ave., the parcel immediately next door.

View of two properties on Delaware Ave.
1121 N. Delaware Ave., viewed from the Sugarhouse parking lot
View of the Sugarhouse parking garage, from the same spot

This parcel sits right between the Views at Penn Treaty homes and Sugarhouse. It’s currently a large, one story warehouse, but the developers that own the property intend to tear down the existing building and construct sixty new homes here. Each home will rise four stories, with a drive-aisle providing access from Delaware Avenue. Needless to say, the homes won’t have basements. Here are some renderings from Cecil Baker, to give you a sense of what’s coming.

Site plan
Aerial view plus a view from the street
Rendering from Delaware Ave.
View from the river

As you can probably guess, the images above come from a Civic Design Review packet, which is necessary due to the size of the development. Since the project needs CDR approval, it will also get presented to the community, where it may win rave reviews or meet significant opposition. The community response is only of moderate interest to the developers though, since the project is happening by right and CDR is completely non-binding. So if the developers are so inclined, they can build exactly what you see in the renderings, or something that slightly or strongly resembles the renderings.

Is this the best use of this prominent parcel on the Delaware waterfront? We honestly have no idea. To us, intuitively, it feels like an underuse, and that a taller building with more density would make much more sense from a city planning perspective, if not from a financial point of view. But again, different people have different views on what would be the perfect Delaware waterfront, so you might think this is the appropriate use for this parcel. Or maybe you’d prefer that Sugarhouse took over the parcel to build a hotel or a larger parking garage? Hey, different strokes for different folks.

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Salter Mews Part Deux Coming Soon? Mon, 11 Feb 2019 20:23:00 +0000 The post Salter Mews Part Deux Coming Soon? appeared first on OCF Realty.


In the 1960s, the City condemned four square blocks between 3rd and 5th Streets, Christian Street and Washington Avenue, to establish the Southwark Public Housing Project. As we’ve told you previously, PHA built three towers here, ultimately demolishing two of them in the early 2000s and constructing a couple hundred two-story homes in their place and converting the third tower into senior housing. As we’ve also told you previously, a few structures escaped condemnation decades ago, including the historic Emanuel German Lutheran Church at 4th & Carpenter, which will soon get converted into an apartment building. Roughly a dozen properties at the corner of 3rd & Christian were also not aggregated into the Southwark projects, separated from the rest of the development by Montrose Street to the south and Orianna Street to the west. Those properties have remained privately held to this day.

The southern portion of this property got renovated in the early 2010s, as developers built twenty homes with parking on a property that was previously used by a laundry company. That project, known as Salter Mews, was originally conceived as a for-sale development, with prices expected to exceed $600K. After the 2008 market correction, the homes were listed at prices just under $500K but only one home ended up selling, with the rest turning into rentals. Those homes are all occupied as far as we know, with rents in the $3000/mo range. The parcel to the north, 300 Christian St., has continued to sit empty. We even wondered about it, maybe half a year ago.

View at 3rd & Christian
Looking west on Christian
Salter Mews homes, just south of Christian St.

We don’t need to wonder anymore, folks. This week, developers will come before the Queen Village Neighbors Association and present plans to redevelop this property into a four-story apartment building with 40 apartments and 11 parking spots. This project requires a community meeting because the 11K sqft parcel is zoned for single family use, and the developers could only build a handful of homes here by right. A 40-unit building would seem to make sense here, given the location and the size of the property, but we have a feeling that some people might object to the density and the lack of 1:1 parking. We don’t see either as a particularly significant issue, but then again we don’t live nearby- we’d just be thrilled to see something happen here after years of vacancy and an apartment building has always felt like the appropriate choice. We’ll see if the neighbors agree.

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Seven Homes Finally Finishing Near Konrad Square Park? Thu, 07 Feb 2019 17:46:20 +0000 The post Seven Homes Finally Finishing Near Konrad Square Park? appeared first on OCF Realty.


We’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of Dakota Street, as it’s one of those streets that disappears and reappears in Fishtown, seemingly with little rhyme or reason. It’s even more understandable if you couldn’t find the 2300 block of E. Dakota St. on the map, since it doesn’t show up on Google Maps due to the fact that it ends after a hundred feet and isn’t wide enough to drive on. While this is a challenge for real estate bloggers and Caviar delivery guys, some people consider a slightly hidden address to be a perk, and there’s definitely a benefit to living on a little street that’s closed to vehicles. That was surely part of the thought process that developers had when they purchased three older homes at 2300 E. Dakota St., with a plan to demolish and redevelop the property into seven new homes.

View of the site back in 2015

We brought this project to your attention back in 2015, and when the project got ZBA approval at the end of that year, we figured it wouldn’t be long until we saw new homes rise on this property. And indeed, we believe construction started here sometime in 2016. Running into the next year, we believe that the homes were nearly completed- at least that’s how they look from the outside.

Current view
Closer look

You’ll notice in the image above, there’s a dreaded Stop Work Order posted to every home in the development, dating back to some violations from 2017. We aren’t sure exactly what caused these violations, but as we look at public record, it appears that all the violations were resolved a year and a half ago. At yet the Stop Work Orders are still posted and it appears the homes are not sold or occupied. One positive sign, the end unit was listed as available for rent about a month ago at a price of $2,500 per month. The images in the listing show a home that looks like it’s 99% finished, though we don’t know the state of the other homes. Does anyone know what happened here? We confess, we’re a little stumped.

Assuming that this project is finally emerging from the purgatory of the last year plus, now seems like as good a time as any to remark on the ultra-contemporary exteriors of the homes. We’ve seen plenty of projects in this neck of the woods lean into contemporary designs, but this project pushes things as far as we’ve seen, at least in terms of exterior cladding. Some might complain that the homes look like shipping containers and there’s certainly some truth to that description. From our perspective though, architectural diversity is a good thing, and it’s a gift that we live in a city with all different kinds of buildings that reflect the different times in which the buildings were constructed. Will this style hold up in 5 years? 20 years? 50 years? Who knows. For today, we appreciate the bold choice and suspect we’ll see more homes like these in the coming years.

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Checking in on the Partially Renovated Former West Philly High Wed, 06 Feb 2019 20:55:59 +0000 The post Checking in on the Partially Renovated Former West Philly High appeared first on OCF Realty.


It takes a lot to impress architecturally in West Philadelphia. This section of the city is home to more amazing edifices than we can count, ranging from institutional buildings at Penn and Drexel, numerous churches, the Provident Mutual building, and more Victorian homes than you can shake a stick at. Among all the terrific buildings nearby, the original West Philadelphia High School, which covers an entire city block at 47th & Walnut, still manages to stand out. Built in 1912 as the first secondary school west of the Schuylkill, it was appropriately added to the National Historic Register in the mid-1980s. Demolition never seemed like a possibility when the school moved to a new building a few blocks away in 2011, but a final decision on an apartment conversion didn’t come until 2016.

When we provided our last update, we told you that Heights Advisors would be turning the school building into a total of 298 apartments, dubbing the project West Lofts. We also told you that they would be breaking off the project into manageable bites, because renovating a 400K+ sqft building all at once at this location is rather daunting. At this point, it appears that they have successfully renovated about a third of the building and people have been living there since late 2017. Also, it seems that additional interior demolition and construction are ongoing, at least that’s what the pile of debris in front of the building suggests.

Entrance to West Lofts on 47th Street
On 47th Street, from a distance
Renovated section of the building on Walnut St.
Looking west, a large chunk hasn't been renovated yet
Looking east on Walnut
The former gym, on the southern side of the property

A Philly Voice story from about a year ago detailed some struggles that the initial tenants had in terms of coexisting with the ongoing construction and coping with the fact that the amenities were not yet ready. We haven’t seen any stories about the building in the time since then, which suggests that the first phase of the project has stabilized- and images on the building’s website indicate that the gym (located in the former school gym) has been completed. We’re cheered that things appear to be progressing to another phase, and are also pretty pleased with how sharp the renovated exterior looks after some sandblasting and new windows. Plenty more where that came from, in the coming months/years.

In looking at public record as we were researching this story, we noticed a new use permit on the property, issued last month. This permit indicates that the unit count is going up significantly, from the original 298 number to a more substantial 385. We don’t know how the developers were able to make this change without triggering a refusal for parking, since CMX-3 requires 3:10 parking and we seem to remember the project initially got parking relief at the lower unit count. We’re generally not fans of parking requirements, and given the close proximity to the El, we don’t think that the additional density will present much of an additional burden, though near neighbors might disagree. Everyone would surely agree though, that the preservation of this building is a big win for the city, and though its renovation is proceeding a bit slowly, its appearance is greatly improved and its use is moving in a more appropriate direction for the present day.

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