Bella Vista

Odd that these lots have been empty so long

Bella Vista has been a great place to live for decades, and vacant land tends to be scarce. So it's a bit surprising to come upon two long-vacant parcels right next to one another that are independently catching the development bug. First let's consider the more obvious property:

New framing at Passyunk & Queen

810 E. Passyunk Ave. has been used over the years as a tiny unofficial parking lot. This triangular parcel was able to accommodate two cars, maybe three if one was a Smart car. Developers bought the lot in 2013, took it to zoning, and then sold it the next year with approvals for a single-family home. The construction has progressed rather slowly, as framing has dragged on for at least a month and a half. Still, we imagine the home will be done at some point this year. Considering the shape of the lot, the inside of the home should be really unique, so let's cross our fingers that there's an open house.

Right around the corner, we see a string of vacant lots on the north side of the 600 block of Queen Street.

Some retail plus apartments

In every neighborhood, some buildings exist as leftovers, hold outs from another era. Sometimes these properties, with the proper attention, become neighborhood assets. Examples in Bella Vista include the apartments at the former De Pazzi School at 7th & Christian and the Bank of Italy building at 7th & Fitzwater, now a dry cleaners. Other buildings serve no greater purpose and seem like they're merely waiting to get redeveloped. This brings us to a small warehouse at the corner of 7th & Kater, owned by Cellini Provisions since the 1980s. Developers purchased the property earlier this year.

The property
Looking north on 7th Street

When we say that the building is serving no greater purpose, we don't mean to impugn the business that's been operating out of there for thirty years, nor are we speaking badly of the playhouse that preceded it or the carpet warehouse before that. We're just noting that a one-story, 2,200 sqft warehouse is a little out of place at this location, and there's surely a higher and better use for the property. The new owners seem to agree.

Some have been vacant for years

Have you been to 7th & Kimball lately? Remember, a couple of years ago, we visited this corner and wondered about a facade-less building that had apparently sat vacant for years. In fact, we discovered that the adjacent three properties, owned by the same family since the 1930s, had likewise been vacant for quite some time. A commenter that lives nearby apprently tried purchase the properties or partner in a rehab project to no avail. Passing by a few months back, we noticed missing facade disease had spread to two more properties but we neglected to snap a photo. Instead, here's a look at the properties a few years back when they all had facades.

In the past

Something (a bunch of money maybe) convinced the owners to sell the four properties at 1007-13 S. 7th St. earlier this year. The new owners are four parties with different addresses in South Philly, but we'd have to imagine that they're working together to redevelop all of the properties. Passing by earlier today, we see an active construction site. All but one of the properties now have fronts!

But it's not what you think

Remember Triangle Park? A few years ago, some neighbors created a green space on a triangular vacant lot at the intersection of E. Passyunk Avenue and Christian and S. 6th Streets, a site that was once a gas station. 

Just a couple of years ago

In 2011, the Redevelopment Authority was going to buy the land to create a permanent park, but then decided against it because of possible soil contamination. In 2012, the owners fenced in the lot and in 2013 they tore out most of the plantings. The property has been on and off the market, and was most recently listed for $250K. It's unclear whether developers have stayed away because of the price, because of potential soil issues, or because they don't want to be known as the company that took over a lot that many people want to see as green space.

When we passed by this lot earlier today, we were shocked to see what appears to be the beginning of a new project. It looked like a hole was being dug, ostensibly for new foundations. Given what we know about the soil, we'd have bet the farm that any construction here would involve a slab and little to no digging.

Lots of money to raise, but it's an exciting idea

We last visited the Nebinger School at 6th & Carpenter two summers back, when construction was taking place to dramatically improve the school's stormwater management. That project included a rain garden and the addition of an underground water basin, and was completed for the 2013-14 school year. Currently, those improvements are mostly covered in snow, as will happen this time of year.

Nebinger School
View of the school from 6th Street

Of course, a schoolyard can always be improved further. Now, the Friends of Nebinger and the school are collaborating on a new gateway into the schoolyard on 6th Street. In December, a meeting with designers from BLT Architects resulted in a scheme for an "open pavilion" that includes a green-covered trellis and ceramic tile details that echo the school's main entrance on Carpenter Street. A reader was kind enough to share the drawings, which still have a very rough look to them. As the process progresses, we'd wager someone will punch this stuff into CAD.