South Kensington

Can't just be a single family home

Recently, we've seen some increased activity on Front Street under the El. The commercial aspect of the Oxford Mills project fronts Front Street. A former garage is being converted into a soup place across the street from El Bar. And three duplexes should soon break ground just above Girard Avenue. Today we zip further north, near the Berks Station and the Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and note a renovation that we can't quite understand.

In the past

1844 N. Front St. was a blighted building for years, like so many others on Front Street in this area. According to a thread on Fishtown.us, you could actually see the third floor roof pushing out the bricks from the station above. In 2010, a developer purchased this building and the one that's located immediately to the south. Both properties have benefited from some renewed attention in recent years.

Fun use for an old warehouse

In South Kensington, old warehouses have met diverse fates in recent years. At Oxford Mills, a former dye works has been converted into apartments and office space for educational non-profits. On Howard Street, where the Town Homes at Liberties North are rising, developers tore down an old warehouse in favor of new single family homes. An old umbrella factory, meanwhile, still sits vacant and blighted at 5th & Master.

A couple of years ago, we told you about another interesting warehouse reuse, when Reanimator Coffee moved their roasting facility to 161 Cecil B. Moore Ave., sharing the building with an arts space. With Reanimator having moved their roasting to Master Street, it seems the old textile and dye warehouse has a new and even more stimulating tenant- Keystone Mini Golf.

Misleading name for South Kensington project

In the real estate business, nomenclature can be a funny thing. For years, many realtors referred to the Graduate Hospital neighborhood as South Rittenhouse, hoping to assuage buyer or renter concerns about a transitioning neighborhood. More recently, we've seen northern Point Breeze homes located in "South Graduate," Brewerytown homes in "Fairmount North," and Port Richmond homes in "Upper Fishtown." The trend continues for a project on the 1300 block of N. Howard St. which we first told you about over a year ago. Though the project is very much located in South Kensington, it's being called the "Town Homes at Liberties North." Love it.

Low-res aerial view

As we told you about previously, and as you can see in the image above, the project involves the construction of ten homes at 1323-33 N. Howard St. and eleven homes on the 1300 block of N. Hope Street. In the past, a large warehouse and some dilapidated homes were on this site, but those came down sometime last year. Presently, the homes on Howard Street have been framed out and remarkably seven have already been put under agreement.

Quite the transformation

In the spring of 2012, we first told you about plans from D3 Developers (a company that somehow doesn't employ anyone who was in any of the Mighty Ducks movies) to convert the former dye works at 100 W. Oxford St. into a mixed-use development called Oxford Mills. Back then, the building, which had most recently held a lamp design company, was sitting vacant and looking kind of rough. Today, it looks fantastic.

View from the west
Looking down Howard St.

This project is unique in that it specifically targets teachers. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, 60% of the 114 apartments in this building are available at discounted rates for educators. The remaining units are market rate. At this time, about three-quarters of the residential units in the building are leased.

Never a bad thing

In April of 2013, we told you about a new home rising at the corner of Orianna & Thompson in South Kensington. That home looks like it's done (as well it should be, a year plus later), though a construction fence remains around the property.

Home on the corner of Orianna St.

At the same time, we told you about two blighted homes on the 300 block of West Thompson Street. The homes lacked windows and generally looked all kinds of crappy. They were both tax delinquent to the extent that the City could have sent them to Sheriff's Sale. And according to a commenter, both were purchased with a fake deed, and the original owners were fighting in court to get their properties back.

In the past

We don't know whether it was something judicial or simply the market, but both homes have since turned over. Developers Thirty3 LLC bought 331 W. Thompson St. in April, and 333 W. Thompson St. last October. They wasted little time in demolishing the old buildings, and have framed out two new single family homes where they once stood. Note, the new homes have little boxes on them to hold the required permits. So it's all on the up and up.

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