South Kensington

Historic nomination was not successful

At 1722-40 N. Hancock St. you can find a handsome row of old industrial buildings that have sat mostly undisturbed for about a century. But you'd better go check them out soon, because the wrecking ball is coming.

1722 N. Hancock St.

These buildings were constructed over a period of time at the beginning of the 20th century, and were originally used for the manufacturing of textiles, specifically waste and shoddy. More recently, the buildings were home to Quaker Jobbing Co. Upholstery and Mattress Supplies, as a painted sign on the building indicates.

Sign on the building

When word came out that developers had the property under agreement, there was a submission to designate the property as historic which delved deep into the history of the buildings and the textile industry in Kensington. This came before the Historical Commission in October, with the designation getting voted down by a vote of 6-4. There was an incredibly dense conversation about the merits of the application which you can read here in the minutes, starting on page 25.

Looking like a slow process

A pair of properties on Girard Avenue have been sitting vacant and blighted for many years, and we're frankly surprised we never covered them before today. They've come onto our radar now because they're getting renovated, but before we get into that, let's look at some recent history.

Current view

If you visit 325-327 W. Girard Ave. today you'll see they're under construction, with a tarp covering new framing in the front. The buildings were tied up for a few months with violations, but it seems those have now been cleared up and the renovation efforts have a clear path to move forward. This is surely welcome news for people that live nearby that have had to stare at these buildings sit in a state of disrepair for many years.

From roughly 2011 to 2016

Yeah, that looks pretty bad. But don't let that caption make you think they were in good shape before 2011.

Project across the street not moving yet

If you would have stood at the corner of Mascher & Oxford just a few years ago, you would have been standing in front of a giant vacant lot, with views of a battered lamp factory as you looked to the east. Standing in the same place today provides a very different view, with ten homes having been built on the 100 block of W. Oxford Street and the lamp factory converted into Oxford Mills, an apartment and non-profit office building. And there's a pretty sweet coffee shop over there, too.

Newer homes on Oxford St., small bit of Oxford Mills

While the ten homes in the photo above made a dent in the vacant lot that we mentioned above, it's still pretty empty, considering its size. Part of the lot is being used for parking, while the rest sits empty aside from some older homes. But not for long, it seems.

But a reversal would make some sense

If developers and the community can get onto the same page, South Kensington could soon see another big project arrive on the scene. Currently, 1712-28 N. 2nd St. is home to a large one-story industrial building and a similarly sized vacant lot that's about 25% filled with junky cars. If you visit this property, you might think that it also includes a large vacant lot to the north, as we did, but you would be mistaken, as we were. These properties stretch all the way back to Phillip Street, a side street that curiously dead ends at some concrete barriers at the northern property line and then picks up again a few feet later.

Look for a dozen apartments here

Over the summer, we heard from a reader in South Kensington that developers had purchased a former church on the 1200 block of N. Hancock Street. When we trekked over there, we found a nice enough looking building at 1217 N. Hancock St. that seemed like it would lend itself relatively well to residential reuse, but at the time we had no idea what kind of project would be taking place. We were able to do a little bit of research on the building, learning that it was built in either 1855 or 1889 as the Hancock Street Methodist Episcopal Church.

View of the property over the summer

View of the property from a Loopnet listing, sans trees

Later this month, the new owners of the property will present a plan to the ZBA to demolish a one-story section of the building and convert the remaining structure into a 12-unit apartment building. The project will require a variance because the property is zoned for single-family use, despite the fact that it's about 6,400 sqft in size. If it were zoned multi-family, the developers could theoretically include 17 units, but that's a moot point because they probably wouldn't be able to fit that many units into the existing building.