New Owners For Red Bell Brewery, Redevelopment Should Happen Soon

Brewerytown’s most prolific developer is set to take on the neighborhood’s largest white elephant. A little less than two years ago, we told you that a developer had purchased the old Red Bell Brewery at 1500 N. 31st St. and we believed that redevelopment was on the horizon. Then we waited around for awhile, until a community meeting at the end of last year, at which developer John Wei presented plans for a 147-unit apartment building with 70-80 underground parking spaces, and some retail to boot. The community was apparently lukewarm to the project, due to parking concerns.

Recent view of the building

We were, on the other hand, ecstatic about the project. We were thrilled that the plan called for the building’s preservation, as it offers a direct connection to the neighborhood’s history. As we told you previously, the structure was originally built for the F.A. Poth Brewery, which closed shortly after the end of Prohibition. For decades, the building was used for furniture and appliance storage, until the short lived Red Bell Brewery operated here in the 1990s into the early 2000s. The building has terrific bones, and would make for a great mixed-use conversion.

An old rendering

Perhaps the developer was worried about neighborhood opposition. Maybe he was happy just to make a sizable profit without doing much work. Whatever the reason, Wei sold the property to MM Partners at the end of last year for $4.12M, according to a Philly.com story. This is a pretty good spread, to put it mildly, when considered against the $1.85M purchase price from just two years prior. Color us impressed, and maybe a wee bit jealous.

As for the next steps, MM Partners still isn’t sure exactly what they’ll do with the building. Expect that it’ll still be a residential conversion, but the unit count figures to shrink a bit. Perhaps a reduction in the unit count and the same number parking spaces will ease some community concerns. Then again, we believe the community would look more favorably on the same exact project now that MM Partners is running the show here. They’ve shown a commitment to Brewerytown time and time again over the last several years, tackling projects large and small. Notably, they’re the developer behind the Pyramid Lofts project next door, so they have a serious track record when it comes to adaptive reuse in this neighborhood. If they do half as good a job at Red Bell Brewery as they did at Pyramid Lofts, this white elephant will turn into a beautiful swan.

  • Karig2

    When will MM begin working on their vacant lot at 27th & Girard? Can you get some answers from them on it? They’ve owned it for a long time now, and so far, nothing has happened there. Just hope the same fate doesn’t happen at Red Bell, where it lingers, empty, for a prolonged timeframe.

    • Hoff

      This. Would love to finally see something happen here. I’m a big fan of the original plan for apartments and rowhomes, but they were supposedly to break ground something like 3 years ago. MM owns a lot of properties in Brewerytown and while they have done a lot of good for the neighborhood, I’m not so sure about their track record considering quality and upkeep. The sidewalks in front of their apartments always seem overgrown. They redid a bunch of houses on Cambridge street. The planters they built only a few years ago are already falling apart and I know of at least one case where there was some pretty significant water damage from a shoddy job on the roof deck of a new home.

      • Karig2

        Interestingly, I received a note from MM Partners, saying that they didn’t own the lot at 27th & Girard, and that their deal with the long time owners, to build on that property, fell thru. I didn’t know about that.

    • Circa79

      good point

  • Armchair Architect

    MM Partners has a great track record when it comes to adaptive reuse and preserving Philly’s good architecture. Excited for this project to happen.

  • Karig2

    The fact is, you guys have done a great job along the way and have had a major impact on turning the entire Girard Ave. corridor around. It’s transformational, for sure. Keep going! My only suggestion would be to do high quality, cutting edge design work that will stand the test of time. And, if you can, try to buy that lot and 27th and then do your magic. It would be a huge plus for Brewerytown.

  • jimco

    would love to see you guys in south kensington. gretz brewery and anything on west girard!