The 100 block of W. Wildey Street in Northern Liberties is a bit of a mixed bag. Start at Front Street, and you'll see a recently renovated building that once housed a refridgeration company and now contains office space and a fried chicken place. Take a few more steps and veer to the left to follow the street, and you'll see another conversion, the former Boone School, which turned into an apartment building several years ago. Across the street, you'll see some homes. Moving along the block, there's a large vacant patch on the south side until you reach a new home next to a small dog park, and a relatively new parking garage on the north side. It's that large patch of vacant land that's of interest to us today.
North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties has experienced numerous changes over the years, as it has slowly evolved from vacancy and industrial use to vibrancy and mixed-use. Perhaps the best example of this transition is the Piazza, which stands on the site of defunct Schmidt's Brewery, hence the name Piazza at Schmidt's. A latter day example of this phenomenon exists right across the street from the Piazza, at the corner of 2nd & Wildey. For many years, a fire extinguisher company made its home here, but we showed you about a year ago that their building had been demolished in favor of a planned mixed-use building. As you might imagine, the passing months has made quite the difference at this corner.
When we think of 3rd & Brown, the first thing that comes to mind is North 3rd, a Northern Liberties restaurant stalwart that's been holding down the northeast corner for a long time. We don't know exactly when this place opened, but we know we celebrated New Years there back in 2003 or 2004. Ah, memories. Now that we're thinking about it, we should probably get back there sometime soon, it's been a minute.
The fabulous North 3rd
To the north of North Third is a building that's got a demolition notice posted to its front. 807 N. 3rd St. is a relatively unassuming warehouse, aside from the fact that it's got inscriptions on its front that say 'N. Toconita Building' and the year 1935. Doing a wee bit of research, we learned this place was a bike company for many years, though we confess we don't know how it's been used more recently. Whatever the history, the building was sold about a year ago, with developers tied to Atrium Design Group paying about $850K for the property.
In its industrial heyday, Northern Liberties was a mix of warehouses, factories, and homes for the people that made Philadelphia the Workshop of the World. We're not telling you anything that you don't know when we say that industry has almost entirely dried up in Northern Liberties, as gentrification has taken hold and hundreds of homes and numerous small businesses have sprouted up in the neighborhood. The exception to this rule has been the southern section of the neighborhood, between Callowhill and Spring Garden. With a few exceptions, this section of the neighborhood is mostly warehouses, surface parking lots, and low commercial buildings. Again, we state the obvious when we say that it's pretty crappy over here.
But there is change in the air! We told you a few months ago about plans for a pair of apartment buildings at 4th & Callowhill which would be an amazing step in the right direction for this area. But we couldn't tell you if or when that project will move forward. Somewhat more concrete are plans for Yards Brewing Company to move from Delaware Avenue to 456 N. 5th St., a huge building that was last home to Destination Maternity. Not only will Yards brew their beers here, but they'll be opening a tasting room which will activate the corner of 5th & Spring Garden, a space that rather dead right now.
Girard Avenue, 2nd Street, and Germantown Avenue form a large triangle that's one of the more curiously underdeveloped properties in Northern Liberties. Collectively, all the properties here cover a little over an acre, but there are only two buildings on the site. One is paint store at the corner of Germantown & Girard, and the other is a vacant and blighted building at the corner of 2nd & Girard. Everything else is vacant land. It's worth noting, there were two old homes on this site until 2013, but they were demolished. At that time, we hoped this meant that this entire parcel would soon get redeveloped. Alas, that hasn't happened. But maybe soon?
View of the property from Germantown Avenue
We wouldn't swear on it, but that sure looks like a drill rig doing geotechnical work on this site. For those that aren't familiar, developers retain geotech companies to test the soil on their properties to get a sense of what systems are required for foundations. This is an incredibly important step, one of the first, in the development process. This could be an indication that a new project could be on the horizon for this property.