This past week we checked out some interesting but slightly confusing development activity at 917 Arch St. thanks to a reader tip. This building definitely has some history, having been home to Stewart, Ralph & Company about a hundred years ago, and also housing the Asam Brothers wallpaper warehouse for a stretch. By the 1970s the structure looked pretty rough, but it's taken a turn for the better in recent years.
The building in 1975
Back in 2014
Visit the building today, and you'll see it's getting a three story addition. We've actually seen this happen to a few other properties in Chinatown, usually with a similar scale.
At the time, we said "this means that Realen's planned hotel in the old Liberty Title Building at the corner of Broad & Arch is full speed ahead. Considering the time, money, and energy that's gone into the Convention Center expansion, we're looking forward to the completion of these two projects, at which time the 1300 block of Arch Street will be free of construction activity for the first time in almost a decade." Hilariously, the scaffolding that was about a year old at that point remained in place until only recently.
Looked like this for the last five years
Over the holiday weekend, a reader was kind enough to send us an image of the building sans scaffolding- there's now a fence around the first floor. This is very good news.
We've probably only found ourselves on the 1000 block of Winter Street a handful of times over the years, likely looking for parking for a night out in Chinatown. Despite the presence of countless restaurants on surrounding blocks and the fact that the Vine Street Expressway is pretty much across the street, this block is largely residential and entirely unassuming.
Looking east on Winter Street
One notable exception to the residential rule on this block is 1026 Winter St., a two-story building that's home to a law office. The property is double-wide and has a garage entrance to a parking area in the rear.
1026 Winter St.
Later this month, developers will appear before the ZBA with a plan to demolish the existing building and build a new six-story building in its place. The plan calls for a small parking area on the first floor, office space on the second floor, and twelve apartments on the upper floors. The project came before the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation a couple months ago and it appears that the community is opposing the project. We weren't at the meeting so we couldn't tell you why, but perhaps it's due to the fact that a new building at such a height would be out of scale with the rest of the block. Of course, with the entire block zoned CMX-3, midrise commercial, it's a sure thing that the height isn't the reason the project is going to zoning.
At 9th & Spring Garden, next door to Traffic Court, sits a building that was once a FedEx terminal. For awhile, it held flea markets and it may still do so, we're honestly not sure. The building sits on a huge lot, covering almost 2.5 acres, which is certainly appropriate considering its previous use. But a new use could be in store for this property, one that would be consistent with the changes we've seen to the northeast in Northern Liberties and to the northwest in West Poplar.
View from the east
Back in the fall of 2012, we told you about plans to put a three-story addition on the property and create sixty-six apartments. The first floor was to remain as exhibition space and we expected that flea markets would continue at this address. But clearly nothing has happened as the years have rolled along. Earlier this year, we heard rumblings of a new plan for the property- a four-story addition, 140 apartments, 127 parking spots, and six separate commercial spaces. That's quite a bit more density and it also suggests that flea markets are not in the building's future. The project went before the PCDC in April but it's been continued twice at the ZBA.
The northeast corner of 11th & Wood has been vacant for decades. And this makes sense to some extent. For many years, trains ran on the elevated viaduct immediately to the west, a now-abandoned stretch which will soon become the Rail Park. And half a block to the south, the Vine Street Expressway has been moving cars from here to there for the last twenty-five plus years and let's just say that developers haven't been falling over each other to build next to the highway.
But something is changing in this area. Maybe it's because developers are looking at any and all possibilities near Center City. Maybe it's because there's finally optimism that the Rail Park is going to happen soon, which will make the neighborhoods near the viaduct far more attractive. We'd say this is certainly the case in the West Poplar neighborhood, so why not the northern part of Chinatown too? Remember, the Goldtex building, a warehouse turned apartment building, is just a block away from here, just on the other side of the viaduct.