Last year, a new mixed-use building appeared on the corner of 19th & Fairmount, replacing a long vacant lot and covering a mural of Noam Chomsky. And while some neighbors may miss the public art, their sorrows are at least partially drowned by the presence of the wonderful Tela's Market & Kitchen on the ground floor of this building. In our book, a bunch of apartments plus a vibrant commercial space is the perfect addition to Fairmount Avenue where Spring Garden meets Francisville
A couple of weeks ago, the same developer that brought us the aforementioned building broke ground on another project just a couple blocks away. 1720 Fairmount Ave. has for years been a vacant lot used for the storage of bricks and stone. When we passed by the other day thanks to a reader tip, we discovered that construction is underway at this location.
On Green Street in the Spring Garden neighborhood, it's a common sight to see former mansions converted into apartment buildings. In recent years, a couple of former churches have also gone through this transformation. To this point, though, we don't believe it's happened to any former convents. But that's exactly what appears to be on the horizon for the former Saint Francis Xavier convent at 2324 Green St., which happens to sit on a giant chunk of land around the corner from the Art Museum.
Art museum around the corner
If you live in this area, you've surely passed by this old building, which was once associated with the gorgeous Saint Francis Xavier Church on the north side of the street. While the former convent pales in comparison to the church, its stone facade has a unique and historic look, different from anything else in the area.
Yesterday a couple of readers gave us a shout, suggesting that construction had gotten underway on a new project at 16th & Fairmount. First, we wondered (with fingers crossed) whether the one-story restaurant on the corner was being demolished and replaced. Then we wondered (also with great hope) whether the vacant lots next door were being developed. We were wrong on both counts.
Corner of 16th & Fairmount
Homes not coming here
Instead, construction is just now getting started just to the south, at the corner of 16th & Melon. These lots have been vacant as well for quite some time, and were purchased by builder Dermot Mccartan from the Spring Garden Community Development Corporation late last year. Mccartan is building five luxury homes which will front Melon Street. We imagine that once the homes get built, the gate blocking access to this block will go away.
A little over a year ago, we brought the blighted 1516 Green St. to your attention. We told about how this building, located next to the Chapel Lofts, became blighted over the years as it was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. And we expressed hope that it could be redeveloped soon, as it had been purchased by a private developer at auction, for a rather high price.
In the past. View from the east
Initial plans were to demolish part of the rear of the building and reconstruct it, ultimately housing six apartment units in the building. This plan was ultimately rejected the Historical Commission. We wonder if now they wish they had given their approval, as the building is currently in the process of being demolished. A demolition permit issued last month even waived the traditional 21 day waiting period for demolition due to the structure being "imminently dangerous and in disrepair." The demolition effort has made good progress.
While it's a bit of a slow train coming, redevelopment along North Broad Street, or at least plans for it, continue to surface. While it's still very early in the process, Loonstyn Properties, which has become a major developer in the area over the past few years, is currently under agreement to purchase three buildings near 15th & Melon, a block west of North Broad, just south of Fairmount Avenue.
Of the three buildings, two could become a mixed-use project with ground-floor commercial. Those two, 1427 and 1429-35 Melon St., are now a one- and two-story brick garage that absolutely scream reuse. The brick looks like it's in good condition, the brick arched door on the two-story building is charming, a type less seen. The third building, 675 N. 15th St., will remain in its current state as a four-unit residential building, though minor renovations will be made as needed. According to Bill Loonstyn Jr., it's still too early to decide whether the buildings will be converted or not. The company is still looking for an architect, and plans are preliminary.