Brewerytown

Block has turned around thanks to PHA auction

A little over three years ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority held a press conference on the 3000 block of Cambridge Street, announcing plans to auction off 400 scattered site properties. Included in that list were five vacant and blighted properties on the block. The press conference set up shop in front of 3020 and 3022 Cambridge St., which were in terrible condition at the time.

Press conference in 2011

Those same homes are looking much better these days. Like many other homes on the block, they've been sold to private developers, renovated, and resold to residents. 

Current view of those homes

A couple of homes on this block could still use some love, but the changes have been incredible in just a few short years. And some more changes are surely on the way. The western end of this block is a dead-end, separated from Fairmount Park by railroad tracks. But the homes end before the end of the block. We spotted zoning notices a couple of weeks ago though, suggesting that the end of the block will soon fill in some.

Businesses coming and going

For quite some time, we've been banging the drum aggressively on the redevelopment of West Girard Avenue. About two years ago, Bottom Dollar Foods replaced a large vacant lot, bringing a new grocery store to what was for many years a food desert. This was a very big deal. Smaller businesses have been cropping up along the way, with Rybrew and Shifty's Taco adding to the food scene. Mugshots couldn't make a go of things, but their space was filled relatively quickly by a High Point Cafe location. At 27th & Girard, an old church has been converted into sixteen apartments. All signs have been pointing up for this corridor.

But the reinvigoration of a commercial corridor isn't a linear process. Inevitably, there will be some setbacks to go with the victories.

Bottom Dollar Foods

Perhaps the biggest concern at the moment is the status of the supermarket. Earlier this month, Aldi purchased all sixty-six Bottom Dollar locations, leaving the future of every market up in the air. The expectation is that the market will close at the end of the year, and eventually reopen as an Aldi. But it's unclear how long that will take, possibly leaving the corridor without a major anchor for some time.

But seriously, let's call it something else

It's always interesting for us to take the long view of development and observe how projects wind their way from concept to reality (or not reality for projects that fall through). Having done this for a few years now, we have the benefit of digital hindsight to help us remember project concepts and see how they change over time. Examples abound. A seven home project turns into a six home development. A building advertised as condos quietly shifts to rentals. High-rise buildings add a story or chop off two, perhaps changing some setbacks too.

At 31st & Master, we're seeing a project we first told you about a couple of years ago go through some changes thanks to new ownership. A former Acme warehouse covers the entire block, and the eastern section was converted to the Lofts at Brewerytown a few years back by Pennrose. Our previous story had Pennrose finishing the job, leading to a total of 224 units in the whole building. But new developers have come forward from McSpain Properties and they're moving forward with the renovation and calling it The Fairmount at Brewerytown.

A new letter and new owners

A story from Michael Klein clued us in a couple weeks ago about the recently opened Sarah's Place at 29th & Flora in Brewerytown. This building was, for many years, home to Sara's Place, which shut its doors a few years back. But new owners from MM Partners, a company that's done a ton of construction and renovation in the neighborhood, have fixed up the building a little bit and opened the new neighborhood bar. The inside is apparently relatively unchanged from its earlier incarnation, but the exterior has a bold new sign painted on the facade.

Sara's Place

With this place now open and Crime and Punishment in the works around the corner on Girard Avenue, Brewerytown's getting maltier by the day. We wonder though, whether the new bar on 29th Street will have a positive influence on some surrounding buildings. Immediately to the north, there's a zoning notice on 1222 N. 29th St., a former salon. The owners are hoping for a tattoo shop, and the application was continued by the ZBA back in August. So stay tuned on that property.

Or are we dreaming?

At the corner of 26th & Poplar, a vacant warehouse cries out for redevelopment. And its cries might just be answered sometime soon.

View from the east

The 12,000 sqft building sits on the border between Brewerytown and Fairmount. To the south is a lovely residential neighborhood. To the north is the rapidly improving West Girard commercial corridor. Next door, unfortunately, is a gas station. But that hasn't stopped developers at other locations in the past.

View from the west

Recently, a reader directed us to a Philadelphia Speaks thread discussing this property, whose owners recently put in for permits to build a couple of roof decks. Our first thought was that the property was owned by the Graveley family, a group that owns several parcels nearby including the recently demolished Old English Tavern. But no, it's owned by Bambrey Associates LLC, a company that purchased the property back in 2002 and is now finally taking an interest in it as the neighborhood to the north continues to progress.

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