The Exchange Lofts building at 17th & Poplar is one of our favorites around town. The property was designed by architect John Torrey Windrim as a Bell Telephone Company exchange (see what they did there?) but sat vacant and deteriorating for several years. Thankfully, developers purchased the handsome structure in 2007 and set to the task of bringing it back to life in the form of eight condos across four floors.
In the past
A couple years back, we told you of plans for The Exchange, Phase II, a new seven-story building next to the Exchange Lofts that would mean sixteeen additional units for this corner. At the time, we praised the architecture of this project for taking a very contemporary approach, making no effort to match the existing property. The project took a little while to get off the ground but at this point you get a really good idea of what it will look like when it's finished.
The story on the 1600 block of Ridge Avenue has been one of blight and vacancy for many years. But as nearby blocks, like the 1600 block of Ogden Street, have seen redevelopment, Ridge has begun to move in a better direction. Last summer, we told you about a new building under construction at 1623 Ridge Ave., a parcel that goes from Ridge to Ogden Street. That building, now finished, has a commercial space on the first floor and three apartments above.
1623 Ridge Ave. looks finished
On either side of this new building, expect additional construction soon. To the north, we can already see a foundation in place on a triangular parcel. Like its neighbor, the new building will have commercial downstairs and residential above. On the other side, though no work has begun, look for a similar project in the near future.
Foundation at the corner next to completed building
Rendering of several projects together
Considering what this area looked like just a couple years ago, it's almost inconceivable that this is what the future holds. And it turns out there's even more in store for this block.
We claim to be lots of things, but experts on the history of land division in Philadelphia is not one of them. So we don't claim to understand why some blocks have lots that are 12' wide and others have lots that are 18' wide. It isn't clear to us why some properties even exist. And we certainly have no idea how it came to pass that some parcels on the 1900 block of George Street go all the way to Cambridge Street but some others stop after a mere 35 feet.
But the metes and bounds gods have spoken and yea it is so. One would expect these 560 sqft parcels to sit vacant, or perhaps house the occasional garage. But two different developers are instead thinking residential and now we're seeing four homes under construction here.
The best image we could get of three almost foundations
A fourth foundation a few steps away
At a sheriff's sale in Janaury of 2014, developers purchased 1935 and 1939 W. George St., and later in the year they purchased 1937 W. George St. in a private transaction. Yesterday, when we snapped the photos above, a crew was working on three foundations. Only a few "doors" down, at 1923 W. George St., another foundations is already poured. All four of these homes will have floor plates smaller than 500 sqft, which means the architects will need to get creative to fit everything you'd expect in a new construction home.
While perusing the ZBA calendar the other day, we noticed that 717 N. 17th St. had received a variance. Looking at some older maps, we can see that this property has been empty for quite some time, since at least 2007. A few years back PHA built an unfortunate structure immediately to the north, one of a string of architectural crimes they've perpetrated on Philadelphia. But soon a triplex will rise at this corner, and two of the units will have a parking space.
Vacant lot at 17th & Olive
You can see in the image above, there's another project ongoing right around the corner which we didn't even know about! The building appears to front Swain Street but the address is actually on Chadwick Street. 714-24 Chadwick St. has also been vacant for quite some time. Looking at old photos, it was pretty gross, a sign of excellent stewardship from longtime owners PHDC. But new owners purchased the large lot in 2014 and now they're building a seven-unit building. The photo is a few days old, so we'd imagine the building is at least another story higher by now.