Like the slowest ping pong match in history, things keep going back and forth for the long vacant parcel on the northwest corner of 26th & Poplar. Three years ago, the owners of the property had a plan for an apartment building with 75 units and 38 parking spots. That never came to pass, and a year ago we told you about a shift in plans for the parcel, to 23 homes with fully underground parking. But if you visit the property today, you’ll see that hasn’t happened either.
Our first instinct would be to blame the longtime owners of the property. As we’ve covered a few times before, the Graveley family has owned this parcel for a long time, allowing it to drag down surrounding blocks while falling behind on property tax payments. When we told you about the townhome plan, we indicated that the property was under agreement with another developer, but public record indicates that the Graveley’s are still the owners. Digging a little deeper though, we see that the property did indeed change hands last month, to an entity that shares ownership with North Broad Living. This developer is currently building some homes in Spring Garden, a project we coincidentally covered just yesterday.
We heard rumblings over the last couple months that plans had shifted for this property, and a Civic Design Review packet posted yesterday provides confirmation. In the packet, we see that the developers are shifting back to a mixed-use project, with a four-story building with 108 units, almost 12K sqft of retail space, and 51 parking spaces taking up the rest of the first floor. As expected, the CDR packet included renderings of the project, which were done by CANNO Design. The first three floors will be clad in brick, and the fourth floor will be sheathed in corrugated metal paneling. It’s a fairly simple design which we think will look pretty nice alongside the architecture in the area.
We thought that the townhome plan for the property made sense, and we’re even more enthused about an apartment building here. The added density will be a boon for existing businesses on Girard Avenue and should encourage more businesses to open on the corridor. In addition, if the developers are able to find a single tenant for the building’s commercial space, that establishment will surely bring something new and different to the area, as sizable retail spaces are few and far between in this part of town.
Not only does the project feel right from a planning standpoint, but it surely makes more economic sense for the developers than building and selling town homes. This wasn’t necessarily the case a year ago though, as the parcel was classified as an “opportunity zone” during the last twelve months, creating significant tax incentives for a developer to build something with the intention of holding onto it rather than selling. We believe that the opportunity zone angle will finally result in a situation that this long vacant property gets redeveloped- and we definitely don’t expect another pivot back to town homes before groundbreaking takes place.