Fishtown

Maybe this time something will happen

A couple years after a proposal stalled out at 1217 E. Columbia Ave., developers are giving it another shot. Currently, this address is home to a warehouse that's a throwback to a more industrial time in the neighborhood. But looking around the area today, the building doesn't much fit in with its surroundings.


One off from the corner

In the summer of 2015, developers came to the community with a plan to demolish the building and replace it with an eight unit apartment building that would have included six parking spots. But the neighborhood pushed back because the property is zoned for single family homes. The parcel could be legally subdivided and a pair of homes could be constructed by right, but the subdivided lots would be oversized and the homes would have hilariously large back yards. At the time, the head of the FNA zoning committee indicated that the neighbors preferred homes over apartments because homes would fit better into "the character of the area."

Better than demolition, we'd say

The Edward Corner building at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon Street has sat empty for as long as we can remember, a blighted link to the area's industrial past. Back in 2010, plans came and went to renovate the building and put a diner on the first floor. A couple years ago, we learned that Core Realty had a plan to demolish the building and build a large mixed-use project in its place. A combination of community opposition and historic designation scuttled that idea. Last fall, we got details on a by-right plan to renovate the Edward Corner building into something mixed-use in conjunction with a larger mixed-use building next door with 170 units and a rock gym.


Edward Corner building

Rendering from CDR application

This seemed like a pretty good outcome and we assumed we'd revisit the project at some point during the construction process. But alas, here we are covering this property again before groundbreaking has taken place. So what gives?

At least not this year

When we learned about plans for a PHS Pop Up Garden at the NKCDC garden center at 1825 Frankford Ave., the idea seemed like an altogether intuitive concept. Philly Compost has used part of this 10K sqft lot since 2011, but from what we understand the rest of the property is generally closed to the public. If you consider the size of the property and its location on bustling Frankford Avenue, you'd probably agree that it could be utilized more effectively. While Frankford Avenue still has its share of alternate vacant lots, the NKCDC partnership angle seemed like it would help in smoothing the way toward cooperation with the community. Uh, no dice.

Another vacant lot disappearing on Front Street

Back in the fall of 2014, we brought a development opportunity to your attention, as 1523 N. Front St. was listed for sale for $2.1M. We noted that the property included a building that had been built as the United Presbyterian Church in 1850 but had been used as a warehouse for a contractor in recent decades, and worried that a developer buying the property might tear down the former church in favor of unexciting new construction. It seems we weren't alone in that concern, as it was nominated to the local historic register shortly after we wrote our story. No question, designation depressed interest in the property and resulted in a reduced sale price of just over $1.5M when the building finally changed hands about a year ago.

When we checked in on the property last fall, we learned that Domani Developers had purchased the property and noticed that renovation work was just getting started. But we didn't know exactly what was in store for the building. Commenters living in the neighborhood gave us the low down, explaining that Domani was converting the building into office space and had plans for their own offices as well as office space for the quickly growing City Fitness empire. Looking at the outside of the building today, we see that there's been some major progress, with new windows installed in many places. We have to assume that there's been good progress inside as well.

Unless the neighbors fight against it

Over the last five summers, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has taken over underused properties in neighborhoods around town, greened them, and created pop-up beer gardens. Last year, pop-ups operated on South Street West and at the base of the finally under construction Rail Park. Previous incarnations have appeared on South Broad Street, on Walnut Street near Rittenhouse, and at the bottom of the Italian Market. This summer, PHS is looking to partner with NKCDC to open a pop-up beer garden at 1825 Frankford Ave., a 10K sqft lot that's used as a garden center by the community organization. Sounds fun, right?

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