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.
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.
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
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.
But in order for this thing to happen, the operators of the franchise must get approval from the ZBA. And before that happens, they need to present their project to the community. That's happening tonight, as they present plans at 6:30pm at 1444 Point Breeze Ave., at the monthly South Philadelphia HOMES zoning meeting. Other items are on the agenda, but they wouldn't tell us what. But even if it's just for the new restaurant, it's worth showing up and voicing your support. This would be a clutch addition to Point Breeze and Washington Avenue, but if history is any indication some people will probably oppose it.
So show your face and say yes to Gus at 20th & Washington!
Over two years ago, we brought 1501 S. 20th St. to your attention just as interior demolition work had taken place. We didn't have much more info about the project, though at the time it was noteworthy to see construction activity stretching so far south in Point Breeze. Today of course, with so much additional development in this neighborhood, a renovation on Dickinson Street is well within our expectations.
Prior to any demolition
Two years back
Typically when work like this gets underway, it's not long before a new addition arrives, a new kitchen and some bathrooms get built, and some new people move in. At this corner though, the building remained pretty much unchanged, slowly rotting in the sun, for almost two years. Recently though, new framing arrived on the third floor. Something about it looks haphazard though.
Last year, the building collected all sorts of violations for its waning structural integrity, all of which have seemingly been corrected. The bracing you see on the second floor was required for the developers to continue moving forward with their construction. Surely a professional engineer examined the building and certified that it was stable and could handle the weight of an additional story.