Old City

But a building would be better still

We were grabbing a coffee in Old City the other day, and something unexpected caught our eye on the 200 block of Market Street. It was a beer garden! 240 Market St. has been sitting vacant since the auction house that previously stood there burned down in 1987. According to a City Paper (pour one out) story from 2013, the property is owned by Victor Gordon, who also owns a shop on 3rd Street that sells various African statues and other carvings. Gordon has had some kind of a beef with the City over the years, and the article claims that he left his Market Street lot vacant and overgrown more or less out of spite for the City. Not for nothing, it looked pretty awful.

On Callowhill Street, Not Columbus Blvd.

Over the weekend, we noticed a sign posted at the corner of Columbus Blvd. and Callowhill St., advertising a townhome project called Callowhill Court. And as we told you yesterday, we were concerned about this sign because we thought that it meant curtains for the Renaissance Plaza project, and we prepared ourselves for a sea of townhomes on the Delaware waterfront. After a quick conversation with one of the realtors listed on the sign though, we realized that the sign actually refers to a project happening at 10 Callowhill St., a property just around the corner. A one story building stood there until a few months ago.

View from a few months ago

Current view

Developers bought this 4,800 sqft parcel last summer and are now planning to build four homes on this property. And looking at the listings that went up recently, we see that these are gonna be some pretty impressive homes. The largest homes will clock in at 4,800 sqft, with 4 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, and 2 car parking. List price is $1.7M. A second home is listed for a mere $1.35M and will only have 3,600 sqft of living space and a 1-car garage. Check out these renderings to get an idea of what we can expect to see here.

Or will we continue to wait?

400 N. Columbus Blvd. has all the potential in the world. It's huge, spanning about five and a half acres. It's right on the Delaware waterfront. It's easily accessible from both Old City and Northern Liberties. But for as long as we can remember, it's been sitting half vacant, with the other half occupied by a storage facility that would be much better if it was someplace else. So... what's the deal here?

Overhead view

You may not remember, but this property was slated for development as World Trade Square, a massive mixed-use development that would have meant four enormous buildings with a mix of apartments and office space and over 2,000 parking spots to boot. That project was in the works for years before a City Council ordinance restricting height on the waterfront combined with the 2008 economic downturn submarined the project.

If only someone would develop the parking lot next door

We've gone past 35 N. 2nd St. a number of times over the last month, each time meaning to pause for a minute to peer at the zoning notice posted on the front, but always in too much of a hurry. Finally, we took a minute yesterday to look at the zoning notice on this vacant building, which was previously home to I. Miller Microscopes for a very long stretch. Developers bought the building about a year ago, paying $800K for the property.

View from the north

Looking at the zoning notice, we see that those developers have plans to build an addition on the building and intend to maintain the ground floor commercial space while creating ten apartments on the upper floors. The minutes from their presentation to the Historical Commission provide additional detail, indicating that they'll build out the rest of the third floor and construct a fourth floor as well, leaving a 25' break in the middle of the building on the fourth floor, ostensibly to accommodate deck space and to provide additional light to the upper units. According to the zoning application, which got approval last month from the ZBA, they don't yet have a tenant in place for the retail space. It's a safe bet that the microscope store, which has moved to the 'burbs, won't be making a comeback here.

Better than the grainy image we got from the sign on the site

Just last week, we gave you an update on the elimination of a surface parking lot at 24 S. Front St. and the early stages of construction for nine townhomes. We were excited to get a better understanding of this project, having been uncertain about several details when we first covered the property back in October. As we said last week, US Construction is building nine homes with frontage on Black Horse Alley and a drive-aisle that travels from Front to Letitia Street. We still don't know whether the developer will follow their typical approach and rent out the homes for a time before selling them, but we'd have to think that they'd opt to sell them off right away, given the ritzy address. No pun intended.

View from last week

Seeing our story and the grainy rendering we cribbed from a sign on the property, the folks from JKRP Architects reached out to us and provided a clearer image and some additional visuals to give us a good idea of what we can expect when the project is completed. Check 'em out: