The DMV experience is generally terrible- a few Simpsons episodes featuring Patty and Selma have driven this point home. But our experiences at the PennDOT Driver License Center at 1530 S. Columbus Blvd. were generally tolerable, with relatively manageable wait times in a rather depressing setting. But that setting is now gone forever, as this location recently closed its doors. Passing by the other day, we spied dumpsters on the site.
With all the recent action on Front Street in Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and South Kensington, it's no surprise that people who own properties on this long underperforming stretch are hoping to cash out. One particularly sizable example can be found at 1523 N. Front St., between Jefferson and Oxford Streets.
Lots and warehouse
The large building on the site has been home to James Scollon's Sons Building Construction & Repair, though we're pretty sure they've cleared out by now. The look of the building suggests it was once a church, and historical maps confirm that United Presbyterian Church once called this place home. Now, it's for sale for $2.1M along with a collection of surrounding vacant lots. According to the listing, it's almost 7,000 sqft of land combined.
View up Lee Street
This property would seem to be calling out for reuse into apartments, surrounded by new construction mixed-use. The existing building would especially work for residential use, considering it doesn't butt up against the El. Oxford Mills, the adaptive reuse project across the street, does come right up to the tracks but has tucked the residences further away. Instead, their space on Front Street is reserved for offices.
Over the summer, while attending a wedding in Connecticut, we stayed at a cute hotel in New Haven called The Study at Yale. Next to the elevator, there was an easel with a rendering of a future hotel, The Study at University City. It's like they knew we were coming!
Developers Hospitality 3 recently presented this project to Civic Design Review, clearing the way for this project to get underway on the northwest corner of 33rd & Chestnut. The building is designed by Digsau, and will stand ten stories high. It will include 212 hotel rooms, a restaurant, and meeting and banquet facilities on the second floor. The building is right on the border of Penn and Drexel, but it will apparently target Drexel families, coming to visit their kids. Currently, the James E. Marks Interculural Center building is on the site. The scale of the new building seems much more appropriate, given the location and all the institutional development taking place nearby.
The Royal Theater was built almost a hundred years ago at 1524 South St. and in its heyday was a center for African American culture in Philadelphia. Since 1970 though, it's been vacant and slowly wasting away. Plans have come and gone over the years to bring the theater back to life, with the most recent coming to light last fall. At a large community meeting, Universal, which has owned the building since 2000, presented a preliminary plan to demolish the building, maintain the facade, create thirty rental apartments in a new building on South Street, and build six homes on Kater Street. Reactions were mixed at the time.
We were driving through Roxborough last week, and spotted some new construction from maybe a quarter of a mile away. This is what happens when developers build on the top of a hill. When we were finally in front of 4004 Pechin St., we discovered two new homes that were recently framed out. Previously, a vacant home sat here on an oversized lot.
In the past
That home possessed a similar architectural character to the home next door, which was made more interesting by the fact that all the other homes on this side of the block are only two stories tall. Still, it should come as no surprise that the developers, who acquired the parcel back in 2012, are opting for three story homes to replace the one they tore down. Check 'em out.