Since 1965, the 4500-6600 blocks of Germantown Ave. have been listed as a district on the National Historic Register. The blocks of Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill were listed in 1985, and the gap between these districts was closed in 1987, as the 6700-7600 blocks joined the register. We were under the impression that some of these blocks had been listed on the local historic register for years, but we’ve learned that this is not the case. While plenty of properties in Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill are individually designated, Germantown Avenue hasn’t been included in any local historic districts – until 2021.
Earlier this year, a very small section of Germantown Avenue, the 7100 and 7200 blocks, were approved as the Central Mount Airy Commercial Historic District. The dominant motivation behind this designation, we believe, is the presence of several Art Deco buildings on these two blocks, but there are also older buildings mixed in which add additional character to the corridor. With the additional of the buildings on these blocks to the local historic register, anyone that wants to modify a building on either block will need the blessing of the Historical Commission. It’s been like a month, and we already have our first request.
7208-10 Germantown Ave. was originally constructed as the Mr. Airy National Bank, and from just looking at it, you would probably guess wrong if we asked you to tell us when it was built. With its colonial style and its Wissahickon schist facade, you might think it was constructed sometime in the 1700s or maybe the 1800s. In fact, it was built around the same time as many Deco buildings in the area, designed by Norman Hulme and opening its doors in 1929. As you can see, the building has held up quite well over the years, getting converted to office space somewhere along the line and most recently being used by an educational institution.
Developers are looking to build a two-story addition on the existing building and also construct a five-story addition on an adjacent lot on Nippon Street. The project calls for the preservation of retail space on Germantown Avenue and the use of the remaining building plus everything new for a total of 19 apartments. This project would be permitted as a matter of right. Here are some site plans plus some renderings from Bright Common, showing off some of their typical high quality work.
As we said, there’s no zoning issue here, since the proposal would be permitted as a matter of right. But the Historical Commission will need to give the OK, due to the presence of that aforementioned brand new historic district on the block. Based on the initial application to the commission, we’re able to share the above renderings and consider the likelihood for approval.
The Germantown Avenue addition is set back from the street, allowing the historic facade plenty of room to breathe. The demolition will take place on the side of the historic building, and this demolition won’t take away from the “essential form and integrity of the historic property.” Though the proposed aluminum clad windows will certainly cost more than vinyl, they will be compatible with the district. And though the height is surely guided by zoning considerations, it also won’t take away from the other buildings on the corridor, which only helps the cause. Looking at initial staff recommendations to approve the project, we are guessing that the Historical Commission will do the same and we’ll see this project proceed sometime next year.