Northern Liberties

Food, drink, and plans for new community spacea

Community groups are the straw that stirs the drink in many neighborhoods, providing services to residents, organizing cleanups, and dealing with all of the aggravation that zoning meetings entail. This and more could certainly be said about the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary tonight with a special event that's open to the public.

NLNA office

The event will take place tonight from 5:30-8:00pm behind the NLNA office at 3rd & Fairmount and will not only feature free food and booze, but it will also include the unveiling of plans and groundbreaking for a new community pavilion and gathering space designed by Kieran Timberlake. Funding for this space, which we believe will be located on the lot behind the office where the event is happening, comes from the Penn Treaty Special Services District. And here you thought that Sugarhouse would be bad for the community!

26 new homes, wowza

For the property at 312-330 Fairmount Ave., the last few years have been something of a roller coaster ride. In the spring of 2014, developers presented plans to the community to demolish the collection of warehouses on the site and build a 108-unit apartment building in their place. The Northern Liberties Neighbors Association had all kinds of feedback, requesting lower density and a shorter building, and at some point the developers decided to move on to another project, selling to PRDC Properties. PRDC had a totally different take on the property and presented plans for 27 homes. The community was into it and the ZBA gave their approval at the beginning of this year.

Checking in on the property today, you can see that the old warehouses are gone and a row of homes and a row of foundations have appeared.

We'll explain why this makes sense

There's a triangular parcel that's created by the intersections of Germantown Avenue, Pollard Street, and Front Street/I-95 that's been seeing some serious development activity over the last year or so. We actually told you about plans for 1007-1013 Germantown Ave. a couple years back, when the property was sitting vacant, aside from a two-story home which has since been demolished. If you check in on the property today, you can see that some units have seemingly been completed while others are still under construction.

New construction

When property owner Paul Stokely presented his plans for three homes and two duplexes to NLNA at the end of 2013, he indicated that he and his daughters would occupy the homes and the duplexes would be offered as rentals. We have to imagine that this is exactly what happened, as the new homes aren't listed for sale, and public record has no indication that they've changed hands. Once the duplexes are wrapped up, we'd guess they'll be listed for rent, and might we suggest a property management company?

It's been empty for at least a decade

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?

But who will be the retail tenant?

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: