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.
Ah, but how wrong we were! It turns out that the 600 block of N. 5th Street doesn't start until you get to Green Street. This means that the shopping center will be sticking around, at least for the foreseeable future. Dang. The actual property in question is a large warehouse that sits directly to the north, one that we're pretty sure was at one point in consideration for conversion into a movie theater slash bar.
We initially thought that the addition was some kind of roof deck which would either serve the ground-floor business or the residents of the apartments on the building's upper floors. The fact that we couldn't easily find permit information made us more confident about this idea. Over the weekend though, we actually walked up to the building and spied a posted permit indicating that the two new floors will include two new apartment units.
Back in the day, the Wilson & Sons carpet binding factory covered a large parcel just south of Cambridge Street, between Orianna and 4th Streets. Some time after the factory shut down, the rear portion on Orianna Street was demolished and just a few years ago, developers built a row of homes. These homes were nice enough, but the people living there had to deal with the ghost of the old factory in their backyards. But that's finally changing.
Newer homes on Orianna Street with old factory behind them
What's left of the old Wilson & Sons building is actually quite large, with frontage on both Cambridge and 4th Streets. Sadly, it's been sitting vacant for many years, a reminder of the neighborhood's industrial past and an indication that the neighborhood still isn't finished growing despite an incredible number of projects in the last few years. Back in 2014, developers came before the community with a plan for 28 units in the building and another new-construction five-unit building, but that plan clearly went nowhere. A Plan Philly story from back then shows that the NLNA pushed back because of a lack of parking in the proposal.
Passing by earlier this week though, we see that this property is an active construction site.