Point Breeze

So many more are coming

When we visited the 1200 block of S. 24th St. over three years ago, we were hopeful that the construction of three new homes might spur redevelopment nearby. The 2400 block of Manton Street was particularly in need, with vacancy stretching halfway down the block on both sides of the street. Oh, and there was a shipping container curiously stationed on the southwest corner. Today, the shipping container is gone and a new home is under construction.

New home at 24th & Manton

1220 S. 24th St. is listed for sale for $499K and will have 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2,800 sqft of living space, and a parking spot in the rear. But what about the vacant lots next door and across the street?

But it's a big difference from a couple years back

Sydenham Street, which runs between 15th & 16th Streets, is one of those random north-south streets in Philadelphia that comes and goes as you move through town. If you're at all familiar with it, it's probably because you've been to the incarnation near Temple University, or the one-block stretch between Walnut and Locust that's home to Elixr. Today though, we turn our gaze to the 1100 block, the only block of Sydenham Street in all of Point Breeze. We actually visited this block, which starts on Federal Street and dead-ends before it gets to Ellsworth, a couple years back.

At the time, the block was a total mess. Only a handful of homes on the block were occupied. Many vacant buildings looked like they were ready to crumble. And we saw a bunch of vacant lots too. But our message was one of hope. One of the vacant buildings was getting rehabbed, and two of the vacant lots were getting developed. That rehab is currently on the market, and both of those homes have been built and sold.

Looking up the block

Today the block is still pretty far from looking like Delancey Street, but it's slowly making positive strides. On the east side of the block, a new home has appeared and a second one is under construction.

And there's other construction and demolition nearby

A couple years back, we told you about a community meeting where developers presented plans for new homes at 1341-45 S. 20th St., attempting to get support for a variance triggered by too-small-rear-yards. The community meeting didn't go great, but they eventually got the variance they were seeking. Somewhere along the line, something compelled them to try something else even though they could have built homes on these long-vacant lots. They decided to come back to the community and return to the ZBA with plans to build four-story duplexes with the intention of selling the units as condos. They got approval and have been building ever since. Checking in recently, we discovered good progress at the site.

Three new duplexes
Project rendering and floor plans

From what we hear, many of the units are already under agreement. Lower units were listed just under $250K, and the one upper unit we can find currently listed is priced at just under $270K. Generally speaking, the vast majority of new construction in Point Breeze has been of the single-family or multi-family for rent varieties, but with the success of this project and a couple others, we think the condo market is finally making some headway in this neighborhood.

At least a restaurant is coming nearby

When the new zoning code came out a couple years back, it included a provision that required a setback on three-story homes constructed on two-story blocks. The reason this happened is up for debate. Some would say it was intended to impede gentrification. Others would argue that it was meant to maintain some sort of architectural uniformity on shorter blocks. Surely there are other reasons we could conjure up as well.

Not up for debate is the lousy on-the-ground impact this provision has generated. We've seen many examples of unattractive setbacks, used to avoid a trip to the ZBA. A Chichen Itza-like home on the 2000 block of Carpenter Street is a fine example. What we haven't seen yet is a four-story building with setbacks on the top two floors. Until now, that is.

Doesn't look great

We first told you about 2046 Federal St. a few months ago, when it was only a foundation. This was shortly after the former launderette next door had been demolished after blighting the corner for years. We had no idea that the triplex would have its top two floors set back, especially since our understanding of the code would have allowed for no setbacks by right. We were under the belief that a setback was only needed if both homes on either side of a project rose only two stories, and since this property sits at the end of the block it would seem that the setback rule shouldn't apply. NB we are not plans examiners or an attorneys; our opinion doesn't really count.

But at two different locations

The restaurant options in Point Breeze have slowly grown over the years, but in the last few weeks, plans have emerged for two new establishments.

Last night, we attended a community meeting where an attorney and architect representing the owner of the Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken franchise presented their case. The business will indeed open on the corner of 20th & Washington, and will have seating for 81 in its initial incarnation. The operator will have options to expand the business into two additional vacant spaces in the building, but they'll have to sell a ton of chicken before that becomes doable. In the meeting, we learned that they will be getting a liquor license and they won't be open past 10pm. They will enlarge the tiny windows and make the building considerably more attractive than it is today.

Current view of 20th & Washington
Gus's rendering

Having attended many community meetings in Point Breeze, we were prepared for anything. But the thirty or so residents in the room seemed generally okay with the project. There were some questions about signage, the possibility of outdoor seating down the line, and hours of operation, but nothing that suggested anyone would be aggressively mobilizing against the project. If the community supports and the ZBA approves, we'll be looking forward to fried chicken on Washington Avenue in the coming months.