Francisville

Seems like an upgrade to us

Another day, another vacant Francisville lot getting redeveloped.

These days, it seems that you can't go a single block in this neighborhood without running into a contractors framing a building, pouring a foundation, or digging a new hole. Ridge Avenue is particular is seeing an explosion in development, with a bunch of mixed-use projects now under construction and more coming soon. We don't know exactly what businesses will fill all those retail spaces, but we do know that they'll need as many neighbors as possible to ensure success. Or at least viability.

So let's consider 1431 Brown St. as a prime example of the kind of project that will help Ridge Avenue get to where it needs to go.

The property

1431-33 Brown St. has been sitting vacant for many years, owned by religious institutions since the 1950s. At some point in the last few months, developers bought the property and now they're proposing a ten-unit building here. This is a lot of density for what's essentially a double-wide lot, but why the heck not? Ridge Avenue is just steps away and as we said, the corridor needs as much density as it can get. And not for nothing, but North Broad Street is almost as close, with a Broad Street Line station less than two blocks away.

These will be some unusual units

Thanks to William Penn really thinking things through back in the day, our city has been easy to navigate since before everybody had a GPS machine in their pocket. Of course, some areas can get a little tricky, with Francisville chief among the confusing neighborhoods that are close to downtown. For those that never noticed, a section of Francisville between Francis and Ginnodo Streets turns the grid on a 45-degree angle, tracking along Ridge Avenue. This not only makes it tough to identify addresses in the area, but it also creates a number of triangular lots. One such property, 1644 Francis St., has been sitting vacant for quite some time.

In the past

We passed this property earlier this week and discovered a triangular foundation. We don't see this very often.

Plus, new homes coming down the block

Last week, a reader gave us a shout, letting us know that two homes on the northeast corner of 16th & Brown had been demolished. They were even kind enough to share a photo they snapped before the buildings came down.

View in the past

Developers bought both properties earlier this year, clearly with an eye toward demolition. According to the permits on the property, they're consolidating the properties into one- we'd guess that the new building here will be a quadplex, unless the developers decide to go to the ZBA. It looks like the now-demoed corner property was once home to a storefront, but it's a safe bet that the residentially zoned property won't go back to retail use in the future.

Current view

Looking to the east, there's a newer triplex at 1517 Brown St., and more construction on the way next door. The completed triplex is a condo building, with two of the units under agreement and the ground-floor unit listed at $325K. Immediately to the east, three more buildings are still to come at 1511-15 Brown St., and though the permits aren't clear we'd bet on duplexes or triplexes rather than single-family homes.

Addition would mean 20 apartments

It was apparently only a matter of time before the building at 1501-05 Fairmount Ave. joined the chorus of redevelopment that's serenaded the corridor over the last few years. This building is rather unique, and because it's an example of low-rise commercial construction in the Art Deco style, it was designated historic last year after a nomination from the Preservation Alliance. For an explanation of the exact features that make the building historic, we suggest you read the nomination.

Oops, it's already under agreement

We were rumbling through Francisville the other day, and happened upon a 'For Sale' sign on an oddly shaped building across from the Francisville Playground. 723 N. 19th St. has been home to Joy Chinese Food for the last couple of years, and before that another restaurant called a Lucky Wok made its home here. Once upon a time, we feel like this place was a hot dog stand, but we couldn't tell you for sure.

Building for sale

The property was listed for sale for $160K and went under agreement in less than two weeks. Now its future is unclear. According to the listing, the old restaurant equipment remained in the building, so a turnkey restaurant operation could be in store. Alternately, a developer could demolish the building and construct something mixed-use, maybe with three apartments over commercial. A purely residential play could also be in store, with the possibility of a single family home or a duplex. We're pretty sure that just about any change to the site will require a trip to the ZBA because of the unusual shape of the property.

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