South Kensington

Who will lease the space?

South Kensington and Fishtown are both experiencing a development renaissance, and the good stuff finally seems to be trickling to Front Street, under the El. We've documented plenty of examples of blight under the El, and just recently we've noticed a string of renovation there. For example, a garage is currently being converted to a soup place at Front & Master, across from a future drinking establishment in a renovated former distillery. At Front & Oxford, a massive adaptive reuse project is taking place, converting an old dye works into a mixed-use development. And right near Girard, a new construction project at 1210 N. Front St. just got approval from the ZBA.

New residents coming soon

A couple of years ago, Hope Street on either side of West Thompson Street felt pretty bleak. The southwest corner featured the backyards of a row of relatively new homes that face Howard Street. The northeast corner had a row of faded stucco homes, steps from the El. And the other two corners were vacant. Last year, Postgreen built a project called Duplexcellence on the southeast corner, which we covered at the time. Now, there's more change coming to this intersection.

Looking toward the El. This looks the same.
Duplexcellence, part one

We passed by here a little over a week ago, and came upon a couple of projects at different stages of construction. Right behind the row of stucco homes, at 1303 N. Hope St., a new mixed-use building has been framed. According to permits, the first floor is for parking and commercial use and two apartments are planned on the upper floors. This is way better than the overgrown vacant lot that was here before.

It's getting better under the El

Let's agree, life under the El isn't exactly peaches and cream. It's dark, noisy, and the years have not been kind to many of the buildings. Still, with the explosive growth in South Kensington and Fishtown, some properties under the El are starting to get some love. Remember, we told you last year about an old distillery at Front & Master getting completely renovated, with plans for a bar on the first floor.

Recent renovation, bar coming soon

Across the street from this building is El Bar, which has been doing its thing for several years now.

El Bar

Perhaps by the end of the year, there will be three bars at this intersection. The building on the northwest corner has been on and off the market since 2008. Finally, it turned over last year. The listings boasted of the 20' open beam ceilings in this 2,000 sqft garage, with room to park nine cars. Instead, it seems, patrons will be parking on bar stools.

Will add intrigue to a boring block

Remember yesterday, when we told you about plans for twenty new homes on Mascher Street in South Kensington? Today we have a much smaller project to share nearby, which is also replacing a long vacant lot. For quite some time, 176 Cecil B. Moore Ave. looked like this:

In the past

Though it was a well tended vacant lot, it was still a vacant lot, dreaming of a day that a building would appear upon it. And that day has finally come. Passing by over the weekend, we discovered a newish foundation.

Recent view

Looking quickly at the foundation, our first suspicion was that two homes would be going up here. Then we looked a little closer and decided to consult the L&I Map, due to the square shape of the foundation. That's how we learned that this will actually soon be home to a triplex, which is cleverly being referred to as Cecil's Cube. Design work on the project was done by DCM Architecture. The look will be decidedly non-traditional, which is great by us.

Seems possible

South Kensington has no shortage of big vacant lots. Slowly, plans are emerging to transform those lots into buildings. Even more slowly, those plans are being realized. It was over a year ago that we first told you about Soko Lofts, a mixed-use project on 2nd Street with hundreds of apartments. No construction yet. A few months later, we told you about Liberty Square, a similar project that also isn't yet off the ground.

While huge, game changing new construction projects in South have been slow to coalesce, medium sized residential projects have been all the rage. At 2nd & Oxford, for example we've seen two big vacant lots disappear, replaced by residences. At 7th & Thompson, six units have appeared on a long vacant corner. And hopefully soon, twenty new homes will pop up at 1326 Mascher St., located on a warehouse-laden block.