Perhaps the most famous architectural marker in East Kensington is the water tower shaped like a milk bottle atop the old Harbison Dairy on the far western edge of the neighborhood. You may recall, this building was designated historic a couple years back and is currently undergoing a massive renovation into a mixed-use building, which will include 86 apartments and retail. As far as we can tell, that project is moving along pretty well. But we’re not here to talk about the Harbison Dairy project today- instead we would like to turn your attention to a project right across the street.
2020 Dreer St. was a large vacant lot, dating back at least to the mid-1990s. This would have been an oddity in Washington Square West or Rittenhouse, but in this part of town, large vacant lots have been part of the urban fabric for decades, and only over the last half dozen years or so have we seen redevelopment pick up in a substantive way. This has dramatically reduced the number of empty lots, but there’s still plenty of vacancy in East Kensington at this time. Still, you can be sure that the development community has combed over every square foot of the neighborhood many times over, and anything that can be had for a somewhat reasonable price has traded, and sometimes re-traded. It seems that’s what happened with this property, which the City sold for $1 back in 1999, as it sold for $175K in 2005 and then again for $435K in 2016. It appears that the 2016 buyers are the ones moving forward with the project that’s been under construction for many months now.
This five-story building will eventually include 24 apartments, with 16 interior parking spaces on the first floor. While we’re not too fond of first floor parking in apartment buildings, we have to think that it was a requirement from the community in order to get support for the zoning variance that was necessary to make this project happen. Please note, the property is zoned for single-family use and a handful of homes would have been the alternative to this apartment building. We wonder whether the folks that live in the small, set back homes next door would have preferred that outcome. Probably?
We don’t live next door, so we are of course incredibly pleased to see some height and density here. This building almost touches Front Street, which is currently seeing a development renaissance, and it’s a couple blocks from Frankford Avenue, which famously sports numerous businesses for future residents to patronize. Also, it’s two blocks away from the Berks El Station, so people that live here will have great access to mass transit and won’t necessarily need all those parking spaces. Considering the relatively small number of spaces in the Harbison development across the street and the new density on the block, we wonder whether some of those residents will ultimately look to lease a spot in the Dreer Street building, if such an opportunity presents itself.