A bunch of homes will soon follow

A reader reached out the other day, wondering about the construction taking place at 1124 E. Palmer St., and we were surprised because we were under the impression that we had never covered the project. Then we went to visit the site and it all came back to us- we had indeed written about this project way back at the end of 2014. Perhaps you remember better than we did- this property is quite large, and runs from Palmer all the way to Earl Street. Back then, it included an old auto garage and a large vacant parcel. Developers got community support for fourteen homes with a drive-aisle, with residents concerned about the possibility of a by-right 34-unit apartment building.

It seems groundbreaking took place at some point in the last few months because now this parcel has a row of foundations running from street to street.

Plans call for a residential conversion

Saint Laurentius Church is the oldest Polish Catholic church in Philadelphia, having been built at 1608 E. Berks St. in 1882. Not only was the church a religious site, but it was also an architectural landmark, with its stone facade and gothic spires. The Archdiocese closed the Saint Laurentius parish in 2013, a step we've seen taken at many parishes in Philadelphia in the last decade, due in part to declining church attendance and increasing costs. The plan, at the time, was to maintain the church as a worship site for major events. But the very next year, the City determined that the church was structurally unsound and in 2015 the Archdiocese was planning to demolish the building. A Friends of Saint Laurentius group mobilized in an effort to save the building, which led to a Historical Commission designation last summer.

Parcel has been vacant for eighty years

Well this is something different. Just about every construction project we cover involves a developer buying some land, building a building of some kind, and moving forward with an effort to either sell or rent out the property. But at 1506-08 E. Palmer St., that's not what's happening at all. Instead, the Grupp family purchased this parcel and are going to build a single-family home on the property that they'll use as their family home.

View of the parcel from Palmer St.
View from Memphis St.

The Grupps have taken the unusual step of setting up a website that describes their plan. And they've really done their homework. On the website, they've compiled information about the former residents of this address, archived zoning plans for the property, and general information about the rest of the block. From what they can determine, a fire occurred at this property back in the mid-1930s, destroying some very old wooden homes. And the parcel has sat vacant ever since, despite waves of construction that continue to this day. For example, the Reach Baseball Factory across the street was nicely rehabbed just a couple of years ago.

Building looks like a throwback to another era

610 Belgrade St. was listed for sale at the end of 2014, finally selling a year later for $155K.

View in the past

Many investors surely looked at the property, tempted by the extra-wide 24'x60' lot that would have beautifully accommodated a new construction three-unit condo building, but for the fact that the parcel is zoned for single family use. Given the location and the purchase price, a new single-family home wouldn't have been practical either, so the new owners have instead decided to rehab the property. And if you look at the images from the old listing, from the grandma kitchen to the wood paneling to the drop ceiling, this place needed a major overhaul. In the past, the white stucco facade and the red metal roof gave you a sense of what the place looked like on the inside. The new wood siding on the facade and the new shingles on the roof certainly give off a different vibe.

Several buildings have been demolished

We've discovered a new hole in the ground at 512 E. Girard Ave., just a couple blocks away from a less than perfect addition that we covered yesterday. This property previously looked kind of rough, with a vacant lot at the corner of Eyre Street, a one-story garage next door belonging to the car dealership across the street, and a bike store attached to another one-story garage. Especially when you consider all the development that's happened on and around East Girard over the last several years, it was really only a matter of time before the same thing happened here.