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.
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.
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.
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!