South Kensington

Something new for American Street, but there's room for much more

In South Kensington, wide and often bare American Street is a leftover underused thoroughfare from the era when industrial work dominated this section of Philadelphia. With wide open lots and plenty of room, we've been wondering if developers might begin to see American Street as an opportunity for reinvestment, given consistent building nearby and in the neighboring Fishtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods. And it seems that change is already afoot.

Last month, the ZBA approved a proposal to build a mixed-use building at 1500 N American St. with an art gallery on the first floor and an owner's apartment unit. There will also be a parking space included. Before the building can be built, the garage that now occupies the parcel must first be razed. We think the building was once an auto shop, so a gallery will represent a nice improvement.

Recent view

We wondered about this area in the waning days of 2013. At the time we noted the vacant lot across the street, on the SWC next to the Crane Arts building. Actually, anywhere you look across the street here, there are vacancies. Meanwhile, since then, a new manufacturing facility was constructed a block to the north, the result of a collaboration between the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and Veyko.

Will join another project coming soon on the block

It's no secret that South Kensington is experiencing a building boom. And we've seen projects of all shapes and sizes in the neighborhood, with one-off projects, multi-home projects, and major mixed use projects all within blocks of each other. In the fall, we told you about plans for twenty new homes in the middle of the 1300 block of Mascher Street, and we confess we don't really have any updates on that project at this time. But if you take just a few steps to the north, to 1350 Mascher St., there's definitely something brewing.

In the past
Recent view
Looking down Mascher Street toward the other project that's in the pipeline

As you can see, an old warehouse has been totally demolished. In its place is now a vacant lot. But the signs on the site suggest that it won't remain vacant for long. No folks, Mascher Street is getting another twenty homes. Check out the rendering and site plan:

Demolition reveals an old sign

Years ago, we brought you to the 1300 block of N. Palethorp St. and told you about a new home under construction in a bit of a DIY situation. The owner didn't hire a builder, he was instead building the home on nights and weekends in his spare time. We're not sure how long the project took to complete, but we're pleased to say it looks like it's all done. Just to the south, a new project looms on the horizon, though this time we suspect professionals will be taking care of the construction.

In the past
Current view

As you can see, at 1314-16 N. Palethorp St., a cinderblock wall and an old garage have been demolished. Keystone Group LLC bought the properties about a year ago, and looking at an old listing it looks like the southern parcel was previously home to a swimming pool. Interestingly, as you can see in the second photo (and as a reader was kind enough to tell us about), the demolition has revealed what looks like a sign for the auto detailing place that may or may not still be in operation next door. Not as cool as a swimming pool, but still.

But there's still a ways to go

Last summer, we told you about plans for two new homes on the 1200 block of Leithgow Street coming from the Hardimon Property Group. We passed by 1235-37 N. Leithgow St. the other day and spotted the two new homes, apparently completed. At least one of them is currently listed for a hundred bucks under $400K.

The new homes

The homes have three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and about 2,200 sqft of living space. If these homes were a block or two to the south on the other side of Girard Avenue, we'd imagine that they'be be priced at least a hundred thousand dollars higher. And this makes sense to a certain extent, given the different between the state of development in Northern Liberties versus South Kensington. But the latter neighborhood is, as you're probably aware, doing a fair job playing catchup.

Next door to a row of newer homes

About a year ago, we wrote about N. 7th Street between Girard and Thompson, a blighted block in need of a facelift and dotted with potential for development. We were drawn to this block by a project at the corner of 7th & Thompson that was at that time under construction but is now complete. We noted several blighted buildings and vacant lots that begged for redevelopment just to the south of the new development, but we wondered whether it would take several years of additional Northern Liberties and Fishtown development before builders would take more of an interest in the block. It turns out it didn't even take twelve months.

According to permits approved by the ZBA for 1216-20 N. 7th St. in late January, there are plans for six new triplexes on the block. Rb3 Thompson LLC bought the lots last summer and are rearranging the lot lines to create additional density. The zoning notice mentions turning four lots into six, so we wonder whether the additional lot is to the west on Franklin Street. The parcels are oddly zoned commercial and the new project will be strictly residential, which seems appropriate given the character of the block.