In Old City, surface parking lots can be found all over the neighborhood and they're probably a necessity with all the tourists that come through on a daily basis. But that doesn't mean we have to like them and it especially doesn't mean we're sad to see them disappear. Over just the last year, we've been quite pleased to share news of several projects replacing surface lots including one that's progressed nicely on Church Street and one that has yet to begin at Front & Race. With all the construction in the neighborhood, it makes sense that people are getting excited about work that recently got started at 15-25 S. 2nd St., mere steps from the Continental.
In the past
At least half a dozen readers have reached out to us, wondering what's going on here. Looking at the lot, the possibilities are really exciting. Another collection of mansions maybe? Perhaps a midrise mixed-use building with underground parking? Or something taller, inspired by the fact that 205 Race looks like it will finally get built?
In recent months, we've told you about a few Old City surface parking lots going the way of the dinosaurs, getting replaced with mansions. On Arch Street and Church Street, construction is well underway. On Race Street, another project should get moving pretty soon. Recently, a thread on Philadelphia Speaks alerted us to another surface parking lot in the neighborhood that's on the outs, this time at Front & Race.
Future development site
This site is tucked away, with the Fireman's Hall Museum to the west and I-95 immediately to the east. Fortunately, a big wall blocks out sound and views of the highway (until you get to the roof deck at least). To the south is a condo building that we've told you about before, built on a lot that previously looked pretty bad.
For years, we knew what Old City was about. First Friday. Our city's history. Attractive residential conversions of former factories. Great restaurants. The occasional confounding blighted property in the middle of a block. Restaurant equipment. Bros behaving badly on weekends.
New mansions haven't been part of the equation in Old City for hundreds of years. But all of a sudden, it's been raining big and expensive homes in this neighborhood. We've seen construction get moving on four mega-homes on Walnut Street, seven mansions on Church Street, and three biggies near 3rd & Arch. All of these projects have large homes, high price tags, and designs that make them distinct from the historic fabric of the neighborhood. This seems wise, because fake historic generally looks like crap.
You'd think fourteen pricey new construction homes might be the limit for the neighborhood at the moment, but you'd be sorely mistaken. Soon, eight new homes will get moving at 230 Race St., a project called Bread Street Estates.
It wasn't so long ago that the 3rd & Market intersection had the same campy look it had possessed for years. On the northeast corner was the gaudy Shirt Corner. And the slightly less gaudy but still ridiculous Suit Corner held down the southwest corner. And we liked it that way, thank you very much.
Over the last several months, a new four-story building has appeared on the 100 block of Race Street. This quadplex, which has been dubbed Race Street Square, is replacing a surface parking lot at 138 Race St. that was previously associated with the building next door. Since cars had to go up on the sidewalk to access said parking lot, the new building certainly seems like a safer alternative.
The new building
It looks like three of the four condo units are still on the market, with prices ranging from $369K for a 1 bed/1.5 bath unit to $439K for a 2 bed/3 bath unit. And you can't argue with the location. Just down the street, past the Race Street Connector, is the wonderful Race Street Pier. And the surrounding blocks have all the Old City goodness with galleries, bars, restaurants, and so forth. And it's far enough away from the weekend rigamarole south of Market Street that the block is pretty quiet, outside of bridge and Patco traffic across the street. Our only regret on this project is that we wish they would have gone for something a little more creative architecturally, given then rich history of the area.