Project Coming, Finally, to 26th & Poplar?

We last visited the 26th & Poplar intersection about a year ago, when we told you that construction was getting started on the northeast corner on a pair of mixed-use buildings with a combined 12 units and 3 retail spaces. We were thrilled that the property was getting redeveloped, but were a little bummed about the nature of the project. A couple years prior, we’d heard about plans to redevelop an old industrial building at this corner, which would have made for a very cool project. Alas, it got torn down in the summer of 2015 and the building that’s appeared in its place doesn’t hold a candle.

In the past
Current view

See what we mean? Hey, we get it. Demolition and new construction a much cleaner approach, compared to adaptive reuse. But if you look at the building that got torn down, it could have theoretically accommodated an additional story or two and had the potential to be an incredible interesting edifice. Instead, we’ve got something that looks like it would fit in nicely near Temple’s campus, and we don’t mean that in a good way.

NW corner

Meanwhile, if we turn our attention to the northwest corner, we’ve got some news that’s potentially a cause for celebration. Or maybe not. This parcel has been sitting mostly vacant for many years, becoming entirely vacant when the Old English Tavern and its amazing sign got demolished back in 2014. In early 2016, we told you about a plan to build a new apartment building here, with 75 units and 38 parking spaces. That plan was withdrawn last September, and the parcel has continued to sit vacant.

The October newsletter from Fairmount Civic Association indicates that the property will be coming back to the community at a meeting next month. The agenda didn’t fully describe the project, but it seems that we can expect a number of town homes, and each home will have a parking spot. We would have preferred the previous proposal for this property, as additional density would only help things continue to improve nearby on Girard Avenue. Perhaps the community nixed the plan? We don’t know for sure, as we didn’t attend the meetings for the property the last time around.

When we last covered this property, a commenter indicated that MM Partners was involved with the project, which was news to us. According to public record, the property is still owned by members of the Graveley family, the same people that have owned the parcel for decades. They previously planned a 150-unit project here which never came to fruition, and now the 75-unit project is also dead. We wonder, will the newest iteration finally move forward? Or will we be disappointed after getting our hopes up again?

  • eldondre

    no mention of the fact that the slumlord graveley’s were for years tax deadbeats? no rational person would expect high quality stuff from those scumbags.

    • NakedPhillyFox

      We’ve covered their tax delinquency a few times previously. Last check, they were in a payment plan with the City.

  • Karig2

    Look, if MM Partners is involved, perhaps something good will come of this parcel, and if the neighbors prefer to see townhouses vs apartments, then ok. The fact is, new townhouses are being built NORTH of Girard Ave. right now, as we speak, as well as quite a few rentals. Townhouses in this location would actually be very good for keeping the flavor of the neighborhood. I suspect OCF realty doesn’t want them and would prefer a large apartment complex, with enough space for another large OCF coffeehouse. Of course, a big cafe would be precluded by townhouses, that would most likely be priced below the new, small, and overpriced Ori Feibush homes at 26th & Brown.

  • Circa79

    well this shows that private ownership of underutilized land in no way guarantees prompt development. This is a waste of space currently and it appears the same owners have been squatting on it for years.

    • NakedPhillyFox

      If the City taxed land appropriately, this kind of land banking would be much less common.

      • Circa79

        They already shifted more value to land to more accurately reflect cost of land. You can’t tax land differently from the structure with current PA law to my knowledge. All you can do is try to apportion a higher % of a properties value to land to reflect current conditions.

        • kclo3

          No, PA is one of the only states that allows land to be taxed differently than structure. That’s what the original split-rate land value tax in 1913 was for, and that’s partly the reason for the uniformity clause. Philadelphia is totally allowed to do this with home rule.

          • Circa79

            Thats fine, either way there is no magic bullet that would allow you to focus the increase only on areas where you want to force something to be built. In other areas doing this would become an impediment to developing vacant land. My point was simple- you don’t always get best use of land only by having a private owner. That’s all.

        • NakedPhillyFox

          True. For 2018, the City is increasing the assessment for this property to $963K, from roughly $30K. That should move the needle and could be a reason why it will finally get developed. That said, it’s still not a high enough assessment for a 13K sqft property at this location.

          • Circa79

            no assessment is ever going to be infallible. You don’t know actual value until it’s sold. And no assessment gets adjusted in real time. So you can take any parcel you want and say “this isn’t the correct value”. You could be right- or not. The people who actually pay the taxes on property are unlikely to make the argument “my property is worth much more and I should pay more taxes”. Commercial building owners are appealing the recent mass reassessment saying their properties are being overvalued.

  • Circa79

    saving long ago vacated buildings is often easier said then done.