Temple Area

Former prison has housed non-profits over the years

You're not going to believe this, but we have a story about a property in the vicinty of Temple University that doesn't involve student housing. We were up in that neck of the woods earlier today, and as we were meandering about the neighborhood, an old building with a historic marker caught our attention. At 1901 W. Oxford St. stands a building that was originally built as a prison or perhaps a police station, but has been used by non-profits in recent decades. In 1961, according to Phillyhistory, the building was sitting empty.

View in 1961

Amazingly, the building was not demolished, but gifted by the City to the Opportunities Industrialization Center, a non-profit dedicated to fighting poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. Somewhere along the line, OIC moved its offices to North Broad Street, and a sign appeared on the front of the building that it would soon be the home of another non-profit, the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Community Foundation. This organization is all about youth services and combatting youth violence, and we're pretty sure that the organization has moved into the building even though it's still undergoing some renovation.

Would fill in another vacant lot

It was just a couple of months ago that we last visited the 1900 block of Cecil B. Moore Ave., telling you about plans for 24 units on a large vacant lot. That project, at 1913-1919 Cecil B. Moore Ave., got approval from the ZBA shortly after and construction should be getting started sometime soon. We're generally fine with this, as it's almost always good when a vacant lot bites the dust.

Back in January

Our concern at the time, which remains with us still, was that the design of the new student housing project would be, uh, utilitarian, like so much of the other new construction we've seen around this area over the last number of years. And that (valid) concern remains. The situation is exacerbated on this block by a number of really attractive old buildings, including the cinema turned church in the image above. Unfortunately, as we've covered before, developers built some regrettable stucco boxes next door to that building a few years back which stand among our least favorite buildings in town.

Also some new homes

The 1700 block of Seybert Street isn't one of Philadelphia's finest, and in the snow it somehow looks extra bleak. According to public record, there are 56 parcels on this block, and 37 of them are sitting vacant. If you happen to visit, you'll agree that this seems pretty accurate.

Looking west on the block

But the photo above also gives you a sense that change is in the air on this block. You can see a truck parked on the northern sidewalk that's loaded up with formwork, and in the distance you can see a three story home that looks like it's a relatively new addition.

New formwork, new home on the south side

The new home is the work of V2 Properties, a developer that's seemingly doing projects like this in every neighborhood around town these days. They're also responsible for the new foundation in the foreground and in addition, they own 1703 Seybert St., where it's safe to assume a new home will soon appear. If history is any indication, these homes will all be listed for sale at market rate prices.

But that's not all for this block!

Most of the block has been taken over by PHA

It's amazing how a Naked Philly post can change between the time that we snap some photos and the time we sit down to write about them. A great example is the demolition we noticed the other day at 2110 W. Master St., rather close to some new projects that are just getting started on N. College Avenue and at 19th & Thompson. We saw this demolition, noted that the rest of the 2100 block of W. Master is a mix of worn homes, vacant land, and half a dozen clearly vacant properties, and thought that perhaps additional market rate development was spreading to this block.

Then we realized they're part of a larger project

When a reader tipped us off about some new construction at the corner of 19th & Thompson, we immediately thought back to our visit to the 1800 block of W. Thompson St. last summer, showing off some of the amazing architecture on the block. In case you've forgotten...

Great homes on this block

If you can divert your gaze from the amazing homes, you'll notice some new framing in the foreground of the image above. Let's get a better look at that, shall we?

Framing at the corner

There you go, four new homes. Makes sense, right? After all, this location is just a block north of Francisville and it's also close enough for Temple students to consider living here. But if you look carefully at the homes, you start to notice something strange- they're uncharacteristically small for new construction. The dimensions of the homes are roughly 20' wide, which is great, and about 27' deep, which is terrible. For reference, most new homes are built 38'-40' deep, mostly to accommodate nice sized bedrooms on the front and back of the 2nd floor. So... what gives?