Demolition done, construction soon

It was more than a year ago that we first broke the news that a bunch of new homes were soon to rise on the 1900 block of Walnut Street at the intersection with Van Pelt Street. Back then, developers from Conservatory Group USA had presented plans for the construction of nine new homes to the Historical Commission and were generally met with support. In the time since, they've demolished a one-story furniture store and an old surface parking lot, preparing the site for development.

Current view

More specific details have emerged on the project, which the developers are calling Van Pelt Mews. Check out this rendering, done by Cecil Baker.

Because plans will change, ya know?

Remember yesterday, when we told you that a surface parking lot at 22nd & Walnut would be disappearing with six new homes appearing in its place? The post set off a lengthy thread of comments, with people split on the concept of single family homes versus additional height and density at this corner. Thanks to the sleuthing of one of those commenters, we have some additional info on this project. Turns out the plans are a little different than we originally believed.

22nd & Walnut lot

Back in July, the developers pulled a zoning permit which moved around the lot lines, creating six lots from two. Along with that zoning application to change the lot lines, the developers also indicated that they would be building a home on each of the parcels. This change was by right, approved upon application, and didn't require a zoning variance. So what's with the zoning notice pictured above?

Sure, seems like a good call

Recently, we got a tip that zoning notices had appeared on the southeast corner of 22nd & Walnut, a property that's currently being used as a surface parking lot. We've visited this intersection a couple of times in the past (formally at least, we've been here hundreds of times just walking around town), noting some brick cleanup on the Walnut Plaza building on the northeast corner and reflecting on the pre-gas-station days of the northwest corner. But if the project currently under consideration ends up happening, it would represent the biggest change for this corner in years.

Homes are planned
View from the south, Walnut Plaza across the street

From what we can tell, this property has been a surface lot for decades. Before it was demolished in 1970, the once-home of George W. Childs stood on this corner. Childs, in case you're unfamiliar, once owned the defunct Public Ledger, at one time the most read newspaper in Philadelphia. A school in Point Breeze bears his name.

But don't try to do anything underneath it

A couple months ago, we got a visit from an old friend who grew up in the area but hadn't really walked around Philadelphia in a long time. After showing off South Street West (it's different from the other side out South Street, which is different from what it was like back in the day) and the Piazza, we took a jaunt to the Schuylkill River Trail. He was in awe. And you know what, he was right to be impressed. The park is one of the best things to happen to Philadelphia in the last twenty years, impressively bringing us closer to a river that's cut off from Center City by railroad tracks. And as you've probably heard, the trail just got a 2,000 foot "floating" extension, from Locust Street down to the South Street Bridge.

From what was once the end of the trail
Looking toward the South Street Bridge

We last updated you on this project back in May, when rain storms flooded some of the still-under-construction boardwalk. Since then, construction has finished and the newest addition to the trail had its grand opening last week. We visited before the weather took a turn for the chilly, and found it to be a wonderful addition that we suspect people will go out of their way to show to their friends who are visiting from out of town.

Lots of steel is required

The mansion at 1914-16 Rittenhouse Square St. sits in the southwest corner of Rittenhouse Square, objectively located in the most desirable spot in town. The main building was constructed in 1858 according to Hidden City, but Henry McIlhenny, the man for whom its commonly named, didn't move in until 1950. Amazingly, it's been vacant since his death in 1986. A buyer stepped forward in the late 1990s, getting Historical Commission approval to demolish the one-story section of the building to build a four-story addition, but neighborhood appeals held up the project, prompting the buyer to instead move to Delancey Street.

But when Bart Blatstein of Tower Investments came forward to purchase the property last year, we had little doubt that it would soon be occupied. Late last year, he got approvals from the Historical Commission for his plan to demolish the curved one-story facade at 1916 Rittenhouse Square and replace it with a four-story addition. He's also demolishing the four story home, but preserving the historic facade. As you can see, this is no small effort.