South Kensington

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.

Construction taking place in different phases, demolition too

Over the summer, we directed our gaze to the 1400 block of Germantown Avenue, lamenting its poor state but looking toward an improved future. Though the block is still pretty much a disaster, you can actually see the progress taking place is you pass by today. In general, the block is humming, with several different projects taking place at the same time.

New framing

In June, we told you about a proposed five-home development at 1404 Germantown Ave., which was at that time a vacant lot. Back then, it had been continued by the ZBA. By July, the project got approval. And in the last couple of months, construction began. You can see, two of the five homes are being framed out now. Additional homes will follow.


Up the street, several blighted properties are in the process of being demolished. As these images are a couple of days old, you'd have to imagine that the demo process has gotten even further along at this point. 1428 Germantown Ave., which looks like it's had some work done in recent years, won't be coming down. As for what's next, we couldn't tell you. No permits have gone out for the properties currently being demolished. But their disappearance will improve the block and you'd have to think that something will soon replace them.

Replacing vacant lots

Recently, a reader tipped us off about some new construction taking place at 1231-33 N. 2nd St., which sits just half a block north of Girard Avenue. These parcels were previously vacant for years, owned by the church next door since the 1970s. Needless to say, the church wouldn't have been able to get a combined $190K for these lots back then.

Foundations are in
Church previously owned the lots

In case the title of this post wasn't a dead giveaway, the construction we see today will eventually mean two triplexes on this site. This project, designed by Harman Deutsch, is being done by right, a seemingly rare case of the zoning being appropriate for the lot size and location. Looking up the block, it seems that many other properties are also split into multiple units.

Both mixed-use, replacing vacant lots

Last spring, we experienced mixed emotions as the vacant building that was once home to Lou's Crab Pad was demolished. On the one hand, the elimination of this building, located on the northwest corner of Mascher & Girard, meant that something was finally happening at this neglected address. Six apartments and a commercial space, to be exact. On the other hand, the destroyed building was really interesting architecturally, and we were sad to see that it was not getting renovated. Since April, the lot has been vacant.

Northwest corner, former Crab Pad

Over the summer, according to Star News, developer Tony Elebah presented plans to the community for not only the northwest corner of Mascher & Girard, but the northeast corner as well. The former Crab Pad corner has only been empty for a few months. The opposite corner has been vacant for many years.

It's been well over a year but site work is underway

A biggie is finally underway in South Kensington. Back in the summer of 2013, we told you about Liberty Square, a project from Blackstone Development to redevelop an entire city block into residences, businesses, and artist space a la the nearby Piazza. Back then, the developers had just presented their plans to to the community for 247 apartments, 161 underground parking spots, and 75 bike parking spots on the large parcel bordered by Thompson Street, North American Street, Stiles Street, and Germantown Avenue. Harman Deutsch did the design work.

Project site plan

We're guessing that negotiations with the community resulted in some changes to the project, as the ZBA approved 191 units, 153 parking spots, and 159 bike spots about a year ago. Here's a rendering of the project from its original iteration, we're guessing the finished product will look something like this.

Germantown Avenue elevations

Since the project got approved, we've been waiting around patiently, optimistic that work would eventually get rolling but realistic in our expectations that projects like this are often derailed. But last week, a reader gave us the heads up that work was indeed underway on the site, with some old buildings getting demolished and heavy equipment pushing dirt around. Yesterday, we saw it with our own eyes.