Brewerytown has undeniably experienced a wave of growth over the last several years, seeing developers renovate blighted buildings, develop vacant land, and reinvigorate a latent commercial corridor. The concentration of development has occurred in the vicinity of said commercial corridor, West Girard Avenue, and slowly moved northward into the neighborhood. Over the years, we’ve covered a variety of projects in Brewerytown, with the vast majority occurring south of Jefferson Street, but a few stretching all the way up to Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
If you visit the 1800 block of N. Marston St., which sits a block north of Cecil B., you’ll note that the development to the south hasn’t yet touched this block. Several homes on the block are occupied, but there are numerous homes whose boarded up windows clearly state that nobody lives there. And roughly half of the block is vacant land, the homes that once stood on the block having been torn down over a decade ago. Given the current state of the block and the fact that it sits beyond the northernmost edge of most Brewerytown development, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see many projects here in the near future.
But you would be totally wrong! It turns out, developers very much have an eye on this block, purchasing at least 25 properties here since the beginning of 2017. Earlier this month, developers went to the ZBA for permission to build homes at 1811, 1813, 1827, 1829, and 1831 N Marston St., but the applications were withdrawn for unknown reasons. Still, this developer owns a total of a dozen lots on the block, so we have to think that they’ll be back sometime soon with redevelopment plans. No matter what, we expect a return trip to the ZBA, as the lots measure a mere 14’x42′, and a by-right home on a parcel of this size just wouldn’t make sense in the modern development climate.
Does anyone know why the applications for these properties were withdrawn? Is anyone else dreading the way this block will look, when a bunch of new three-story homes fill in the gaps between the existing two-story homes? Doesn’t this seem like yet another example of a situation where our regular recommendation to amend the zoning code to require that three story homes on two story blocks maintain the cornice lines of the adjacent homes and utilize a mansard roof on the third floor would come in quite handy? Then again, anything on this block would need to go to the ZBA anyway, so developers could just get a variance to avoid matching the cornice lines. So it might not help in this case, after all.