Chinatown

More height, more units, more retail

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.

The property
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.

Fine replacement for parking lots

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.

Last fall, we told you about some new foundations at 11th & Wood. Checking in here now, you can see a corner that's being totally built up.

New building will be an upgrade over a parking lot

Biking up 11th Street the other day, a glimmer on Spring Street caught our eye. Doubling back around the block, we discovered a that a six-story building has been framed from steel at 1031 Spring St., replacing a surface parking lot. Clearly, this project has been happening for several months but it never came onto our radar until this week.

In the past
Our initial view from the west

From the east

Developers purchased this property back in 2008, and got zoning approval for 18 units back in 2009. For whatever reason, they didn't build the project at that time and were content to maintain the surface parking lot for several years. Last year though, they went for an administrative review to add roof decks for the project, suggesting that the thing might actually get built. And get built the thing has.

After groundbreaking, the project got a mention on Skyscraperpage.com, and someone snapped a photo of a rendering on the site which we somehow missed when we passed by earlier this week.

Plus major progress for building next door

Have you ever driven into town on the Ben Franklin Bridge and decided to take the 8th Street exit? If you've taken this route, you've probably noticed the horrendous parking garage that covers 8th Street between Arch and Filbert Streets.

In the past

It was over two years ago that we first told you that the PPA was starting renovations in the tunnel under the garage. And it was almost exactly two years ago that the PPA moved their offices there from West Philly- that was when we shared renderings for a renovation to the facade of the parking structure. But ever since then, we've not really given it much thought. Until yesterday, when we went to the PPA office to renew a parking permit. We discovered that change is afoot!

View from 8th Street doesn't really tell the story
Well this is something different

The garage renovation is far from finished. When all is said and done, it will (theoretically) look something like this:

What's going on here?

In February of 2012, we mentioned 932 Arch St. as an aside in a story about a project across the street. At that time, the property, which has a hair salon on the first floor, had received a five-story cinderblock addition. Previously, this was just a very deep one-story building.

Back in 2009

When the property owners went to the ZBA back in 2011, they got permission for a six-story addition, with twenty apartments on the upper floors, office space on the second floor, and commercial space on the first. Seems like an innocuous enough project, no? But something is amiss here and we can't quite put our finger on it. Prior to their presenting to the ZBA, the owners got a boatload of violations which have all been cleared. Perhaps those violations led to the project going before the ZBA in the first place. Soon after getting approvals, the addition went up and by the time we wrote about it way back when, the construction seemed to be moving along at an appropriate pace. But something has happened in the two and a half years since. Well, scratch that. Actually nothing has happened, at least from what we can tell.

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