Yesterday, a reader tipped us off about a renovation in process at 2439 N. College Ave., across the street from the stone walls surrounding Girard College. It's an unusual parcel with a combination of a one-story corner commercial space and a three-story row home on one lot. We couldn't tell you anything about the property's history aside from the fact that the corner space has been vacant for quite some time.
In the past
The owners purchased the property at sheriff's sale back in 2012. Last year, it was listed for sale for $150K with zoning for a quadplex plus a commercial space on the first floor. The listing predicted rental rates of $850/mo for one-bedrooms, $1,500/mo for three bedrooms, and $500 for the commercial space, totaling $5,200 in gross rent. Either the owners couldn't find a buyer or they simply decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and now they're doing the renovation work themselves.
The 2700 block of W. George St., which runs between Cambridge and Poplar Streets, is pretty desolate. It's got a bunch of vacant lots that people park on, and nothing by way of buildings with the exception of a small section of a warehouse that fronts 28th Street. The reason for all this vacancy, we would posit, is that most of the land on the block is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Are there plans for PHA to build a bunch of homes on this block? We're gonna go ahead and say no. So why would they hold onto these parcels since the late 1960s? Search us.
Despite the overwhelming presence of PHA-sponsored vacancy on the block, some of the parcels are privately owned. And it's on a few of those privately owned parcels, 2730-36 W. George St. (or thereabouts), that a couple of new homes have appeared.
Two homes on an island
Aside from building on a block with no other homes, the developers faced some additional challenges. For one, the lots on the block are tiny, with those pictured above measuring only twelve feet across and and about thirty feet deep. With that in mind, the developers have combined the lots, creating double-wide but still not very deep homes. Despite the unusual layout of the two homes, we imagine they'll be pretty nice when they're finished and should find buyers relatively easily.
The resurgence of West Girard Avenue in Brewerytown has been well documented. New restaurants like Rybrew and Shifty's Taco give residents new dining options. An old church is in the process of being converted into apartments. A giant vacant lot could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project. And there's a bunch of others, too. But there's still plenty of room for growth on this corridor. Vacant storefronts remain, the most interesting of which, we believe, lives on the 2800 block of Girard Avenue.
From what we can tell, 2836-38 W. Girard Ave. was built in the early 1920s, designed by Charles Schweiker. It was built as a satellite location for Jefferson Title and Trust Company, which was sunk by the Depression. By the 1940s, according to Land Use Maps, the building housed a liquor store. This remained for decades, and a United Bank branch eventually made its way here in the 1990s. Most recently, we think a self defense place had run of the building, and there was also a prominent sign for an ATM. Now, a sign on the door advertises the space being available for rent.
Ah, the heady days of 2011. The iPhone 4 was state of the art. The Phillies were still good at baseball. And MM Partners were renovating two buildings on the corner of Taney & Girard. The project was called 'The Braverman Building,' named after a hardware store and bakery that once occupied the property. There were plans for two businesses run by chef Mike Stollenwerk- a sit-down BYOB and a take-out prepared foods market. Six apartments were on the agenda for the upper floors.
Three years ago
For the last couple of years, though, the project seemed stalled, with the buildings basically looking like they do in the photo above. Last week, we passed by this corner and to our surprise the buildings were gone.
Disappointed to see these handsome buildings demolished, we reached out to MM Partners to get the scoop. We learned that the change of plans stemmed from structural problems with the buildings that were discovered as they were doing interior demolition in preparation for a renovation. In addition, Stollenwerk is no longer attached to this project. Now, the developers have plans for a new five-story mixed-use building which will look something like this:
Yesterday, we told you about plans for sixty-four rental apartments at 31st & Thompson, behind Brewerytown's still-relatively-new Bottom Dollar Food. Today, we direct your attention just a little to the south, to 1213 N. 31st St., where a little more development is on tap. Instead of being behind the market, this project will (if approved) rise across the street. Can't argue with those supermarket views.
A couple years back, Steph-Sin Developmentbuilt a couple of houses on this street, a little further north. Now, like a (very) mini Westrum, they're following their previous project with another one down the block. The proposal, which still needs to go to zoning, is to divide a large vacant lot into three smaller vacant lots and build three homes. And while a home right across the street from a Bottom Dollar may not sound like the most appealing choice in the world, at least you're covered if you need milk for your cereal in the morning. The previous Steph-Sin homes on this block are currently rental properties, and we imagine that will be the fate of the future homes as well.