Naked Philly

Or maybe not...

A hundred years ago, it made plenty of sense to have warehouses and factories located in the middle of residential areas. The Washington Avenue of the past, with its lumber mills and coal yards, makes today's forklift-laden obstacle course seem extremely tame by comparison. When the Philadelphia Traction Company had warehouses at 20th & Wharton over a hundred years ago, it seems unlikely that anybody batted an eye. But today, they don't belong there at all. Which is why we were so excited to tell you a few months ago that one of the warehouses would be disappearing and forty-eight homes would be appearing in its place. And it's why we're so excited today to tell you that the second warehouse could disappear as well.

It's taken years

In fits and starts, the 100 blocks of Alter and Ellsworth Streets have been under construction for over a decade. It started around 2006, when five homes went up on Alter and another five rose on Ellsworth. Then there was nothing for a few years. Over the last couple of years though, we've seen additional infill construction. New homes have gone up on Ellsworth Street, finishing the row. A mixed-use building containing a salon arrived on 2nd Street. And last summer, we told you about three new homes on Alter Street.

Building has nice bones

Over the years, we've beaten you over the head with stories about redevelopment just north and west of Penn, near Lancaster Avenue. Baring Street in particular has been an unprecedented source of Naked Philly stories, from the slow and steady transformation of the 4000 block to the recent news of three new homes coming to 42nd & Baring. But despite all the new construction and the dozens of new apartments, blight, vacancy, and development opportunities remain. For example, a double wide building we originally mentioned three years ago on 40th Street just north of Baring remains in terrible condition. And a little to the east, a boarded up home represents another opportunity for redevelopment.

It could happen if it works in DC

Yesterday, a reader tipped us off to a Gizmodo story that led us to a longer story from the Architectural Record, which got us thinking about development possibilities in Philadelphia. In short, Walmart is taking a dramatic shift away from their traditional suburban big-box model and is now attempting to create a smaller urban concept. In DC, in the Fort Totten neighborhood, Walmart will be a ground floor retailer in a new mixed-use development called Fort Totten Square. Whereas new suburban Walmart locations have over 180,000 sqft these days, this one will top out at 125,000 sqft. Sure, that's still huge. But by comparison, not so much.

Rendering of project
Another angle

Designed by Hickok Cole Architects, the project will include a first floor Walmart, 10,000 sqft of additional non-Walmart retail, and 345 apartments over five stories. The buildings will wrap around an interior courtyard a la the Piazza, with amenities like green space and a swimming pool. Sadly, we bet they'll only show Nats games on their big screen television.

A home fit for a music mogul

Way back in 2011, we told you that a row of five homes were being demolished on 15th Street, just north of Christian Street. Based on the ownership records of those properties, we joked around and speculated that music legend and Universal Companies founder Kenny Gamble would be building himself a mansion here. In February of 2012, our unfounded theory unexpectedly came true when Gamble's representatives presented plans to SOSNA for a triple-wide home on the northern three parcels. It took until last October for groundbreaking, and then a hole unfortunately was all we saw here for several months. Somewhat recently, construction finally began here in earnest.