Northern Liberties

Next to a row of homes under construction

Two months ago, when we last visited New Market Street in Northern Liberties, we updated you on a couple of projects currently under construction. Since then, the three new homes under construction at the corner of New Market & Laurel have progressed some outside, and we imagine they've gotten quite a bit of work done inside in the meantime.

Recent shot

Next door, at 117 W Laurel St., the community voted to support plans for a new home designed by KJO Architecture at one of last month's Northern Liberties Neighbors Association zoning meetings. The ZBA approved the project last week. Last acquired in September 2013 for $95K, the parcel is zoned for industrial use even in the recent remapping associated with Phila2035, which sought to update zoning classifications and other details of neighborhood parcels that were long outdated.

“I was surprised when he called and I looked it up [to find it] was industrial,” said Larry Freedman, NLNA zoning chair.

Plenty of action in this area

In Northern Liberties, the blocks near the corner of 4th & Fairmount are in the midst of big changes. Last winter, we told you about the planned conversion of the former TransAtlantic Warehouse on Fairmount Avenue into 48 apartments, and a couple of weeks ago we told you about new homes under construction at 4th & Brown.

400 block of Fairmount Avenue

Now, the former Royal Bank branch at the northwest corner along with several properties along Fairmount Avenue are set for rehab. Wrapping around the corner onto N. 4th Street, there's currently a garage that stretches back to Olive Street which will be demolished and replaced with five new homes by developer Sam Weiner of IronStone.

4th & Fairmount
These will go and be replaced

“The project was pretty much by right,” said Larry Freedman, Northern Liberties Neighbors Association zoning chair.

Not expected but not a huge shock either

Marshall Street between Poplar and Girard was once a bustling commercial corridor, full of shops and pushcarts like the Italian Market. Philaplace gives a lovely telling of the history of this stretch, and explains that a combination of white flight and a redevelopment plan from the 1950s that never came to fruition ultimately sunk most of the Marshall Street businesses. The street never really recovered and it looks pretty bad today. Many of the buildings remaining on the block appear to have residential tenants, but the storefronts are mostly shuttered. And there's not shortage of vacant lots either.

Some older buildings on Marshall Street

But there's something funny happening on the 900 block of Marshall Street. New homes are getting built. Two have risen to date, at 922 and 936 N. Marshall St., one of which has already sold. 936 N. Marshall St. is currently on the market for $550K.

Project has dragged some and changed over time

A couple of years ago, we were very pleased to bring you the news that the former Pride of the Sea warehouse at 4th & Brown was being demolished, and that new homes would rise in its place. We're generally bummed when handsome old churches or row homes come down in favor of new development, but this building was adding nothing to the neighborhood. And even if someone wanted to reuse it, we wonder whether that fish smell ever comes out.

In the past

The demolition took place back in June of 2012, and we expected to see two new homes rise on 4th Street and three more on Brown Street. The project, which was called Foundry Court, was of particular interest because of a partnership with with Nexus EnergyHomes to build the first Net Zero homes in Philadelphia. Plans included the use of geothermal heating and cooling and extremely tight building envelopes. From what we can tell looking at a past and current listing for the 4th Street homes, the project moved forward with only those two properties. The 3,000 sqft home at 718 N. 4th St. is currently on the market for $779,900.

This project seems to be taking forever

Back in the summer of 2012 we told you that Penn Herb, a leading herbal remedy store, would be demolishing their store and several other buildings at 2nd & Green and replacing them with a new building that would contain a new flagship store and fourteen apartments. By November, the old buildings were gone and construction was underway. The speed from announcement to the start of construction suggested that the buildout would run swiftly, but that hasn't been the case. More than a year later, the building was only built up to one story. Almost another entire year has passed and the project is still just sort of creeping along. It's interesting to compare this timeline with that of the Summit at University City, which has risen almost all of its 24 stories in half the time.

Current view

We reached out to Penn Herb to check on the status of the project, as a reader checked in recently to inform us that construction was apparently stalled. According to the Penn Herb people, work is ongoing inside even though not much has happened outside for several months. Assuming that's the case and things are moving along inside, it seems that the building will wrap up sometime next year.

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