If somebody asked you what comes to mind when you think of the 700 block of W. Girard Ave., you'd probably have to mull over the question for a minute, then grab your phone for assistance, before realizing that the original Tiffin makes its home on that block. If you're into dancing, the former Samba Club (now simply called 714) might spring to mind instead. Even if you're not the dancing type, you've surely noticed this building, which was originally built as a bank.
Bank turned club at Franklin & Girard
Tiffin just a couple doors down
We love Indian food and could take or leave the club scene, but we've always carried a torch for another building on this block, one that holds a bit of mystery. 718-28 W. Girard Ave. has been sitting empty for as long as we can remember. The space at the corner is entirely boarded up, and a sign further west on the building has been advertising an upcoming shopping center for lease for at least a decade. The property includes a one story section along Girard Avenue with trees seemingly growing out of it, then it gets taller as it moves down Franklin Street. What's up with this property? Why hasn't someone done something with it? What was it used for, once upon a time?
Back in November of 2015, news broke that one of the most prominent empty lots in Northern Liberties, officially addressed as 1002 N. 2nd St., was finally being sold to a developer after serving as a lot that was occasionally used for parking. This lot is right across the street from Schmidt’s Commons (formerly known as The Piazza at Schmidt’s) and just to the south of Liberties Walk. On the other side of the property, there was once a small industrial building, fronting American Street, previously used by a company called Unipro. We’re a little unsure what this company was doing but it looks like it was either light industrial services or wholesale foods, but what’s clear is that they’re gone and so is the building. Take a look:
Last fall, we told you about plans from Callahan Ward for five new homes for 309-311 Green St., a Tetris-shaped parcel with minimal frontage on Green Street, despite the address. The homes, designed by Interface Studio Architects, represented an upgrade for this property, which had been sitting vacant for many years. To refresh your memory, the project was to entail two homes on Green Street and three more homes on Galloway Street.
But somewhere along the line, the developers found a way to add seven more units to the project. Check out the site plan, which shows six additional homes immediately to the west of the three homes on Galloway, and a seventh unit carriage house floating above a drive-aisle:
Project site plan
Actually, some renderings might help understand exactly what's going on here.
We've commented a few times that the new Penn Herb building is essentially the gateway into Northern Liberties, and we therefore wish it were a little taller and more striking architecturally. The flaw to our argument is that Penn Herb isn't actually the gateway to the neighborhood since you have to walk through Doughboy Park before you get to it. This little green space, also known as Madison Memorial Park, was renovated a few years ago and is quite welcoming despite a lack of shade and the fact that it sits right next to I-95.
Doughboy Park and I-95
The Doughboy statue in the foreground of the image above is, of course, the source of this park's moniker, and it's got a fascinating history. The book Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward, published in 2012 and available for purchase on Amazon, provides great details. Sculpted by John Paulding, the name of the statue is "Over the Top," and it was dedicated in 1920 as a memorial for deceased World War I soldiers from the area. It was originally located at 5th & Buttonwood, but redevelopment moved it to 17th & Spring Garden before the Northern Liberties community worked to bring it to 2nd & Spring Garden in 1981.
As we told you before, 18 of the homes will have frontage on 5th or 6th Street, with the rest of the homes existing entirely within the development. Looking at the site plan and overhead view, we do see that the project will include some green space, including a small green strip on the south side and a larger courtyard on the northern end. A few of the homes will look out onto this courtyard, and they'll be among the most attractive units in the development.