Northern Liberties

Has a pigpen feel to it

Remember the 800 block of N. Leithgow Street in Northern Liberties? A few years back, we visited this little block, noting a bunch of development nearby. We also noted that a tree was growing out of the middle of the street, something you certainly don't see every day.

In the past
The tree we were talking about

It should come as no surprise that access isn't great for this block. If it were a main thoroughfare, the whole tree situation probably wouldn't have gotten so out of hand, you know? This block can only be accessed via Reno Street, which can only be accessed via the 800 block of N. Lawrence Street. Both corners of Lawrence & Reno have been redeveloped in recent years.

View of Reno St., the only entrance to Leithgow St.

Note that Reno is a cobblestone street and has a similar look to the above aerial view of Leithgow Street from a few years back. From what we understand, a developer paved over Reno at one point but was compelled to restore the street to the state we see today. Unfortunately, Leithgow Street needs a similar treatment right now, and in the worst way.

Seems like an underuse

We're fairly confident that 611 N. 2nd St. was once a fire station, but it hasn't been used as such for quite some time. Instead, the building has been used by the fire department for storage and as a counseling center. So it wasn't a huge surprise to learn that the department sold off the property. The use that's now planned for the property however, did not meet our expectations.

Former firehouse

The parcel is pretty big, with 76' of frontage on 2nd Street and going back 115'. You could build eight homes here, as the property goes street to street. Alternately, given the character of 2nd Street, you could go with a mixed-use building with 19 apartments and retail downstairs. Considering the incredible demand for housing in this neighborhood, either project would seem like a slam dunk. 

But instead, the building will remain and it will be converted into a motorcycle shop. Christini has been in the bike business for twenty years, and they more recently introduced their own brand of motorcycles. The space will include a showroom and they will also do some limited design and assembly onsite. The owners presented to NLNA last month and the project was well received, so it looks like this thing is a go.

Some of the high end homes are already sold

Immediately next door to the vacant lot that was once home to the Ortelibs Brewery at 3rd & Poplar, nine four-story homes have risen. These luxury units mark another stroke of the bell in the changing face of Northern Liberties from industrial to residential.

We first told you when plows began chomping the earth here along the 800 block of N. American St. back in the fall of 2011. Then worked stopped and a silence overtook the lot; late in 2012, new owners purchased the property for $1.1M. By the end of 2013, buildings had started to rise. At the time, we only knew that permits called for nine townhomes.

In the past

Developers Space & Company have dubbed the project Liberty Estates and the homes start at $1,050,000. Despite the high price points, a few of the homes are already under agreement/sold. Even the least expensive units have 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and nearly 4,500 sqft of living space. 

Trading a vacant lot for twelve apartments

It was a return Saturday morning visit to Kaplans Bakery at 3rd & Poplar for a cheese danish and a cinnamon bun—that we sadly forget on the stoop where we stopped for a rest, that reminded us that the property nearby on Poplar Street was one we wondered about two Augusts ago, certain that it would be developed soon enough. We were reminded because it was vacant then and there is now a building there.

View from the west

Alas, a new four-story building that will include 12 units—a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments from Streamline Realty, has risen on the site. Nearly complete, it is framed out, with the windows fixed in place, with some bricks laid and some additional sheathing to come. This project shows how the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association has maintained a consistent thread, holding developers to zoning code height standards, and considering the current character of a block when deciding whether or not to lend its support. The developers reappeared four times, tweaking designs each time to meet the requests of neighbors and NLNA. The initial proposal envisioned 18 units, and a fourth-floor without setbacks.

Fratboy bar is graduating

For years, the colorful Finnegan's Wake building on the edge of Northern Liberties at 3rd & Spring Garden opened its doors for drinkers on nights and weekends. By reputation, it didn't attract the classiest crowds. Last summer, the bar stopped operating except for the occasional party, and last fall a plan to sell the property fell through.

The old Finnigan's Wake

Now, according to Plan Philly, a sale appears to be imminent, with Stockton Real Estate Advisors as the future owners. A few months ago, they proposed plans to the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association to build a two-story addition and transform the building into office space with a ground-floor bistro.  “This is a little bit of an involved story,” said Larry Freeman, NLNA zoning chair. When developers first presented their proposal, designed by Sam Olshin of AOS Architects, the zoning committee said it would approve a project with only one additional story. But when the proposal came before the board, the board voted to support the original plans for a five-story building.