South Kensington

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.

A the corner of Mascher and Thompson

In a vacuum, 1265 Mascher St. is an ideal candidate for redevelopment. It's been vacant for decades. It's a block away from Girard Avenue and two blocks from Frankford Avenue. Located in South Kensington, it's surrounded on all sides by small and medium sized projects and there's a couple of huge projects in the pipeline nearby. With a footprint of about 20'x44', you can build a nice house here which should sell quickly. So... what's the problem?

In the past

This property was, until recently, part of the Cohocksink Community Garden. The parcels pictured above have been used as a garden on and off over the years, and according to the current iteration was organized in 2010. A lot that's owned by the Kensington South CDC is bookended by two privately owned properties, a situation that meant that the garden was always living on borrowed time, especially given the rampant redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. Recently, work got started on a new single family home on the corner, a parcel that previously featured plantings, a tall pine tree, and a picnic table. Now it's literally a hole in the ground.

Changing lot lines makes two homes possible

It's more infill development in South Kensington to share as the "build wherever you can" motif continues to transform old out of date garages and vacant lots into residential units. This time, developers have taken two lots next to a bodega where Palethorp hits Master Street and they're rearranging lot lines to build two single-family homes.

Current view

Right now, 180 Master St. is definitely a buildable lot, measuring 17' wide by about 53' deep. 1349 Palethorp St. presents a bigger challenge, as it's an unusual 36' wide and only 17' deep. But if you move the lot lines around, you can slightly reduce the footprint of the corner property and extend the Palethorp property to allow for two reasonably sized lots and eventually homes. It's common sense stuff really. Both lots were acquired in January of this year by Infill Ventures, a most fitting name, for about $125K together. Interestingly, the lots were previously owned by two different parties who were able to coordinate the sales of their separate lots, probably resulting in higher sale prices for both.

It's so long for a big vacant lot

Over the summer, we brought you to the 1300 block of Mascher St., a block with mostly warehouses, a few homes, and a rather large vacant lot right in the middle. It seems likely that this parcel, 1326 Mascher St., was once a warehouse too, but those days are long gone.

Looking down Mascher Street
View of the lot

When we visited this block together, we told you that developers had appeared before the community with plans for twenty homes on this large parcel, and we hoped that they would get their needed approval from the ZBA. Turns out they got approval on the very day we wrote the post, and now the project is proceeding. Though groundbreaking hasn't happened yet, we were able to cull the pre-construction listings for some images of just what this project is gonna look like. Check it out:

We mentioned development opportunity earlier this year

Girard, Girard, oh sweet Girard. So much building planned, we just wonder when. Since plans were first announced last year for SoKo Lofts, more than 300 new apartments at just north of Girard, and Liberty Square, just under 250 new apartments just about next door, we've seen a string of new development pop up along Girard both east and west of Front Street. It's hard to think that some of this development has not been spurred by talk of these huge projects, even though they haven't moved at all as of yet. Of course, construction across Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and South Kensington are also surely part of the equation as well. 

Future Liberty Square, viewed from Girard Ave.

And it seems that another Girard Avenue project is on the horizon, as we recently came upon plans for 225-29 W Girard Ave. for a four-story mixed-use building with three apartments and a commercial space on the first floor. We wrote about this vacant lot earlier this year when it was for sale for what we thought was high $400K, but it did seem like an interesting development opportunity. According to public record, it's still owned by the same party, so we're not sure who's behind the development. It's also worth noting that an interesting mural with three dimensional characteristics is going to be covered by this project.