Plans Shift From Apartments to Homes to Apartments at 26th & Poplar

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.

View at 26th & Poplar
Taney & Poplar

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.

Rendering at 26th & Poplar
Taney & Poplar rendering
Aerial view

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.

  • Karig2

    Too massive, too bulky, overwhelming for the neighborhood and the street. Townhouses would have made a lot more sense for the neighborhood, and the neighbors, than transient apartment dwellers who have no stake in their surroundings the way homeowners do. The townhouse were slated to sell for $900K +…and they had planned 23 of them. Sounds like a pretty good haul to me.

    • Sean Lawrence

      I disagree personally. I think the density is a great thing long term considering its proximity to Girard being a commercial corridor, plus the handful of shops and bars on Poplar.

      • Karig2

        Good points, but Poplar isn’t a commercial corridor, it is largely residential, w/ 2 and 3 story rowhouses. This giant box is 4 stories high and the footprint is huge…it’s going to overwhelm the neighborhood.

        • ZBIZZ

          If you’re living in a city, you can’t really complain about density or added density. More people is something you should always expect.

  • PreserveNicePhiladelphiaBldgs

    CANNO does great design work. A lot of nice larger buildings in Fairmount/Francisville have been designed by them (Bar Hygge building, Tela’s Market Building, new building next to Bishops Collar, etc.)

  • Karig2

    Agreed – it’s way, way too big.

  • Karig2

    For that stretch of Poplar, a huge, 4-story structure will really be out of place. Do a drive by or bike by…you’ll see what I mean. Perhaps if it was set back from the street/sidewalk, that would lessen the impact, but this is going to be one big wall. Overall, I like the look of the building, but if I lived across the street, as many people do, I’d be upset to have this going up there. Actually, if it was set back and was a slim, 8 or 10-story mini-tower, that might be better. A taller building on Girard isn’t a problem, but on Poplar, I feel it is. Others don’t feel this way, which is fine.

  • James Goodwin

    Handsome building. Build it!

  • guzzijason

    108 units, and they are “generously” providing for 51 parking spaces. This is going to result in many more cars relying on street parking in a neighborhood where we’re already beyond critical capacity. I guess for those that enjoy spending an hour driving in circles around the neighborhood looking for a place to park after getting home from a long day of work, this development will be a godsend.