October was our last visit to the 1700 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, when two new buildings were finished up and a few more were on the way. At the time, we remarked on the inclusion of "commercial space," as required by the zoning code, but speculated that based on the design the developers never intended for businesses to open but instead would eventually convert those spaces to apartments. We still think that seems likely.
But we're not here today to think about the future of these buildings. No, we're here to make fun of some shiny bay windows.
On the plus side, at least they went with Temple colors, sort of.
A couple years back, we directed your gaze to the 1500 block of N. 16th Street, near Temple's campus. At that time, developers had just constructed a disappointing new structure adjacent to one of the most attractive historic buildings in the city. Today, the historic building still looks terrific. And the two-year-old gray stucco building next door still looks like crap. It will be such a pleasure to revisit this site over the next however many decades and continue to drink in this sight.
In a move that we can only hope will blunt the awful sight of the newer building, we've discovered that a project is underway at 1516 N. 16th St., immediately to the south. This lot has sat vacant for we couldn't tell you how many years, but now there's a foundation coming together on the site.
A couple of readers have asked us in recent weeks whether we know anything about the construction taking place in the middle of North Broad Street. While word of this sort of work might make you expect a major and persistent traffic snarl, the activity is actually pretty compact and doesn't seem to be impacting cars traveling hither and yon. To the naked eye, it appears as though the City is constructing little medians on North Broad Street, starting in Francisville and running up past Temple.
Early stages in Francisville
Further along on Temple's campus
We assumed that this was simply an effort to improve the lighting on North Broad Street, as the medians have electric service built into them and what looks like the beginning of a light pole. This is partially correct, and at least on the right track. According to a story from CBS3 from the fall, the City is installing forty-five light masts on North Broad Street. Different from light poles, they will stand fifty feet tall and offer architectural reflective lighting. There's a sample you can find on Temple's campus, or you can just look at this rendering:
Perhaps you've noticed, North Broad Street has experienced tremendous improvement in the last decade or so. Several old buildings have been repurposed for residential uses closer to City Hall. Temple has grown by leaps and bounds, building new structures and renovating older ones. And now it seems like the Divine Lorraine will finally come back to life. But even with all this growth, it's unlikely that North Broad will ever return to what it was over a century ago, when it was home to many members of a young and wealthy class of Philadelphians. The Divine Lorraine is a monument to those years, as is the former Mikveh Israel Synagogue building at Broad & York.
View from the corner
The roots of the congregation date back to the 1760s, according to the Mikveh Israel History website. The building pictured above, constructed in 1909 and designed by Pilcher and Tachau, housed Mikveh Israel until 1976. In the intervening years, we think it housed a church as well as social services offices. Most recently, the building was purchased for $700K just last year. And now it's on the market again.
In recent weeks, we've profiled two shuttered Philadelphia schools which are currently available for sale through a cooperative effort with PIDC. Twenty schools are available in all, but we've chosen to only highlight the properties that we deem as the most interesting redevelopment candidates. As the deadline to submit a bid for one of these buildings is today, we figured we'd hurry up and profile one more school, for you multi-millionaire procrastinators out there.
William Penn High School
The former Bok School is an architectural gem, and the former Smith School is no slouch either. The same can't be said, though, for the former William Penn High School at Broad & Master, which was closed back in 2010. Based on the architecture, you might have guessed it was built in 1974. And you'd be right. What the building lacks in character, it makes up for in size.