The 300 block of N. Front Street is an interesting one. If you start in South Philly, this is the first block of Front Street that runs to the east of I-95, which means it's the first block of Front Street with unfettered access to the waterfront. It's got its old cobblestones mostly intact, like several other nearby blocks of Front and unlike the 800 block of Leithgow Street. A poultry slaughterhouse makes its home on the block. And perhaps surprisingly, it's home to a few vacant lots.
343 N. Front St. in the past
The vacant lot pictured above though, is no longer vacant. Developers bought 343 N. Front St. last year and now it's an active construction site. Those same developers also have purchased the one-story garage pictured next door, and they're building there too.
A little less than two years ago, we brought your attention to 107 Callowhill St., a t-shaped lot close to an I-95 onramp. The lot was understandably neglected given its location, but the redevelopment plans made some sense when you consider the construction activity in recent years just a couple blocks away, north of Spring Garden Street. But after several fistfuls of months, the project had not moved forward.
Image of the parcel from a couple of years ago
The plan we detailed previously involved four apartments and an upstairs commercial space. One apartment was going to be on the first floor, two were planned for the second floor, and the fourth unit over the third and fourth floors. Abitare Studios, the company that designed the project, was also planing to move their offices from Old City to a commercial space that was to be on the third and fourth floors in the back of the building. The new version, approved recently by the ZBA, eliminates the commercial use and adds story and an apartment unit. Check out the renderings:
Old City is great. It's where America was born! The architecture is wonderful. The stores are plentiful and adorable. There's like a million coffee shops. First Friday is always a good choice. And on a Saturday night in some establishments, it's like visiting New Jersey without having to pay a toll.
The neighborhood is extremely well established, having gone through a major development push years ago. Of late, we've covered multiple residential developments in the area, with several high-end homes currently under construction and the massive 205 Race project finally on the way we hope. In spite of all the great stuff in the neighborhood though, there's still a number of blighted properties to be found. One of them, thankfully, is on the way out.
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.