We've wondered about the vacant southeast corner of 31st & Thompson for a long time.
In the past
Our hopes for this property grew last year when plans emerged for 31 Brewerytown, the 64-unit rental project from Westrum on the southwest corner of this intersection. In fact, Westrum used the southeast corner as a staging area for 31 Brewerytown, mostly to store unassembled modular sections during construction. Last month, that project wrapped up and we said: "With the apparent success of 31 Brewerytown, we're now hopeful that Westrum will redevelop the east side of the 1200 block of N. 31st Street. Today, it seems more likely than ever before." Sometimes we're prescient, people.
It's a fence! And a pile of dirt! And some heavy construction equipment! Holy crap, something is happening here!
But we're not exactly sure what it is that's happening. According to permits, Westrum is building a four story modular structure with fifty-four open-air parking spaces, twelve interior parking spaces, and seventeen bike spaces. We have to imagine that they're pleased with the success of 31 Brewerytown and this new project will resemble its sister across the street.
Our last visit to 31 Brewerytown at 31st & Thompson came last fall, when we recommended you dash over there to watch chunks of a new building get delivered and stacked together like legos. With the months that have passed, it should come as no surprise that the scene has changed considerably at this intersection.
To refresh your memory, 31 Brewerytown is a rental project from Westrum. It consists of two large buildings, each with 32 units. Some of the units have balconies, others have parking, and some have both. The first building was completed a few months ago and is fully occupied. The second building, seen in the distance in the photo above, will get its first residents next month.
Two large buildings
Rear view feels a bit Mediterranean
Architectually, we're grateful that the buildings look the way they do. As we see it, the developers have made great strides since Brewerytown Square, built a few years back.
If Crime and Punishment—the brew pub opening next month at 2711 Girard Ave. after nearly two years of planning, renovation, brewing, crowdfunding, and a stalled opening because of the need for a zoning variance—brews beer as well as its namesake illustrates human relations, Brewerytown is in for quite a treat.
On June 18th, Crime + Punishment Brewing Company announced on Twitter they'd finally gotten ZBA approval and that they're slated to open this July. With a company named after the novel by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, owners Michael Paul and Mike Wambolt have created a stock of beers inspired by the writer. House Arrest, a Farmhouse Ale, and Indecent Exposure, a Single Hop Pale, are a couple of examples.
In November of 2012, the opening of the Bottom Dollar Foods near 31st & Girard was chock full of excitement, pomp, circumstance, optimism, and plenty of other good feelings, even though the look of the project was about a hundred steps short of the original conceptual drawings. So yeah, the building looks awful like the suburbs, but we were still very pleased to see the supermarket open its doors, eliminating a persistent food desert in Philadelphia. And aesthetics aside, we were really sorry to see the market close its doors at the end of last year when Aldi bought out the Bottom Dollar chain.
But unlike the situation on Grays Ferry Avenue, where the former Bottom Dollar building is now seeking a tenant, Brewerytown is getting a new supermarket in place of the old one. Aldi is currently doing a major renovation of the three-year-old building and will be opening there in the coming months. This is good news. Not quite as exciting but still relevant, the renovation effort includes work on the facade. You can see, they've stripped off the stucco where the Bottom Dollar sign once lived. Seems like a great opportunity to do something cool, right? We'd wager they won't, but we can certainly dream.
Last fall, we heard about possible renovation plans for a vacant warehouse on the northeast corner of 26th & Poplar, though our information was far from complete. The owners had pulled permits to build roof decks which suggested an upcoming residential use, but we didn't see any other permits out there aside from an old one to convert the building into seven apartments with a first floor commercial space. Many months have passed, but our info remains incomplete, as we are still not seeing any fresh building permits that detail a final plan for the property. So you're probably wondering why we're bothering checking back here.
When we last visited (and according to several old permits), it seems the plan was to reuse the existing building. Now our eyes (and some newer permits) suggest that the building is getting demolished. It's a shame, it was a nice looking old structure that would have made a nice adaptive reuse project. That being said, the removal of the building opens up the possibility for something taller, with more density and a more flexible commercial space. The lot is just a touch over 7,000 sqft, which would allow for 15 apartments by right with retail on the first floor if our calculations are correct. We'd think that we'll at least see that, if not a larger building with more units if they decide they want to go the ZBA route.