For decades, Trenton China Pottery sold restaurant and kitchen supplies to restaurateurs and amateur chefs alike out of their large (and underheated) space at 2nd & Arch. Some years ago, the store closed and the buildings have been vacant ever since. In 2011, new owners purchased the property for $1.4M after it sat on the market for years. And last year, 105 N 2nd Street Investors LP purchased the buildings that once housed the restaurant supply store for a tidy $3.5M. But it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that construction started here.
Old City is one of the more interesting places to live in Philadelphia. The neighborhood has historic buildings, art galleries, upscale apartments, fancy restaurants, quality drinking establishments, horrible drinking establishments, cinemas, waterfront access, theaters, and more. It seems reasonable that with all the things the neighborhood has going for it nary a building would be vacant or blighted. But as we've seen time and time again, it simply isn't the case here. While some long-vacant properties have been fixed up in recent years, others, like the former home of Synapse Cafe have continued to languish. Today, we present 20 S. 3rd St., a building that's looked vacant for years which is now getting renovated.
In the past
We can't say we remember, but it seems that this building was once home to an umbrella store. The sign on the building refers those of us interested in online umbrella shopping to their website, which looks like the mid-1990s. You can see in the photo above that the building didn't look great, with parts of the facade possibly rotting. A year and a half ago a new owner stepped in, paying $300K for the property. As you can see, renovations are now in full swing.
A reader gave us a shout the other day, wondering why the fire station at 4th & Arch is boarded up. The thought on their end was that perhaps the home of Ladder 2 (and formerly Engine 8) was being eliminated, possibly in favor of a new development. Certainly, this location would make a fine spot for development, so close to landmarks of our nation's history and next door to Girard Fountain Park. We did a littler research, and we're relieved to report that the fire station is simply undergoing repairs and isn't going anywhere.
According to Philly.com, an ambulance caught fire in the station back in September. Thankfully, nobody was injured and the fire was under control in less than fifteen minutes. Though the fire was quite brief, it caused considerable damage. The medic truck couldn't be salvaged. The building's garage doors, windows, and roof all sustained significant damage. This dramatic image from Myfoxphilly shows the fire burning:
Last summer, we learned from Hidden City of plan to transform the iconic northeast corner of 3rd & Market. The fame of this corner came not from architectural creativity nor did it relate to any famous events that took place there. Instead, people know this corner by its sign. This address has been known for many years as the 'Shirt Corner,' due to the garish and impossible to miss signage that the store of the same name painted there four decades ago. Since the store closed in 2009, a couple of proposals have emerged for the row of properties that made up the store, and last year a plan from Alterra Property Group received the necessary approvals.
A reader tipped us off the other day that a new structure has risen on little Bank Street, which sits between Chestnut and Market, 2nd and 3rd Streets. For about a decade, 1 Bank St. was home to the Five Spot, a club that also hosted burlesque shows. We frequented the place in the late 1990s, when it felt like the coolest spot in Old City. A fire in 2007 was the end for the place, and the building was eventually demolished. For the last few years, this was the site of our favorite vacant lot use- a surface parking lot.
In the past
Last year, the owners applied to subdivide the lot into four separate parcels. Typically, we're able to find out concrete development plans by checking the L&I Map. In this case, when the map didn't provide the info we sought, we turned to the Zoning Archive, where we were able to find the permit applications from last spring. We learned that the developers are building four single-family homes here, which we probably could have figured out just from staring at the site.