While taking a stroll on the yet to-be-connected part of the Schuylkill River Trail in Forgotten Bottom, we noticed the unmistakable architecture of a modified building that we recognized from its renderings. Formerly named known as Penn's South Bank, Pennovation Works is currently a modest construction project on a relatively large piece of land, 23 acres to be exact. The property was previously a Dupont laboratory, and was the site of chemical manufacturing dating back to the 1800s. Now, Penn plans to build a campus of labs, offices, and manufacturing “to bridge the intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives for advancing knowledge and generating economic development.” The plan notably includes that modified building we mentioned earlier, which will be called the Pennovation Center and was designed by New York-based Hollwich Kushner.
View of the site in the future
Renovation is looking sweet
The renovation to this classic industrial building makes it look like a giant broke off a large chunk, leaving some sharp edges that are framed in glass. We're big fans of the architecture. Once the Schuylkill River Trail is connected to this part of the city, the building will be a readily visible landmark to the countless runners and bikers who will pass by every day.
A reader recently directed our attention to some signs posted on a fence at 2717 Annin St., a property we actually told you about last fall. At that time, we had noticed some different signs on the little vacant lot, advertising that it was available for rent. The asking rate was a very affordable $350/month, but we were at a bit of a loss figuring out what could happen on at 708 sqft triangular lot on Grays Ferry Avenue. A new building seemed very unlikely, so we proposed a billboard (however you make that happen) or perhaps food truck storage.
The signs now posted at the property indicate that some kind of food service place is on the way. We first thought that the signs were advertising a place called Manual Treats, but upon closer examination we see that the place will be called Marval Treats.
Grays Ferry has seen some amount of redevelopment in the last few years, but most of it has been limited to the northern and eastern section of the neighborhood. That's why we were fairly shocked to hear from a reader that spotted zoning notices at a vacant lot at 3229 Tasker St., across the street from Audenried High School and just a few steps from I-76.
View of Audenried at 32nd & Tasker
Looking toward I-76
This parcel is quite large, measuring over 6,000 sqft, and could accommodate a large number of apartments by right, since it's zoned for multi-family use. On the other hand, we're not too sure that people would clamor to live so close to a highway onramp. We thought it was quite odd for this parcel to be zoned for residential use, we'd think that commercial or industrial would make much more sense given the proximity of the highway. Digging a little deeper though, we discovered that most of this pocket is similarly zoned.
It's a sad state of affairs these days on Grays Ferry Avenue, with two shuttered supermarkets sitting across the street from each other. For those that don't remember, Bottom Dollar built a new building on Grays Ferry Avenue and opened in early 2014, but closed before the end of that year. More recently, with the A&P bankruptcy, the Grays Ferry Pathmark closed its doors at the end of 2015. This street wasn't winning any prizes when both stores were open, and now things are definitively worse.
Former Bottom Dollar
Former Grays Ferry Pathmark
We've heard whispers and rumors over the last few months though, suggesting that better times are ahead. Grays Ferry Civic reported a couple months ago that Fresh Grocer could be coming to the former Pathmark space, but we haven't heard anything else about that rumor since then. Meanwhile, the talented people at MSC Retail have been listing the Bottom Dollar space for the last few months, and they're typically very good when it comes to finding tenants- it's what they do, after all.
It seems like we check in on the Forgotten Bottom neighborhood every year or so, telling you about a new project in the works for this little neighborhood between Grays Ferry Avenue, the CSX tracks, and the Schuylkill River. But aside from the occasional rehab, nothing much seems to happen in the neighborhood in terms of development. So here we go again, telling you about a possible project, this time at 1421 Schuylkill Ave., with the full understanding that it might not happen in the end. In this case though, it wouldn't be such a bad thing.
1421 Schuylkill Avenue
A reader recently gave us the heads up that the owners of this property had applied to the ZBA with a plan to open a gun shop, a gun range, and training facilities. The application was withdrawn, though, in the middle of January. That being said, it looks like they were able to pull a permit for a gun shop in December, so perhaps the zoning appeal was only for the firing range?
We have to imagine that, whether it's just a plan for a shop or a shop and a range, the neighbors wouldn't be so stoked about it. There's a baseball field right on the other side of the building and a row of homes less than a block away.