Francisville, we hardly recognize you these days. So many blocks in this neighborhood have changed so much over the last decade or so, but we were dumbfounded recently by the complete transformation of Ridge Avenue between Vineyard and Ginnodo. Turn back the clock just half a dozen years, and it was home to some vacant lots, a handsome but empty former hotel, a theatre that had been converted into a church, and a couple other underused buildings. Check it out:
Now look at the block today. Um, things look different.
With the exception of the laundromat at 1732 Ridge Ave., every property on this side of the block is in some stage of redevelopment with retail on the first floor and apartments upstairs. South of the laundromat are four smaller sized buildings, each one seemingly built by different developers and designed by different architects. On the other side of the laundromat are larger buildings which account for greater residential density and will accommodate bigger commercial spaces. The building at 1734 Ridge Ave. replaced the theater turned church and has 30 units, and the former hotel at 1800 Ridge Ave. has 13 units and brings a classic look to the corridor.
Perhaps the most exciting current project on this block is at the corner of Ridge & Ginnodo, a long vacant lot that was originally the site of the Francisville Farmers Market. The owners of the property have sliced it into a couple pieces and are now working on the final part of the property, a 24-unit mixed-use building that’s currently getting an elevator tower. Once this building is done, we have to think that the other projects on the block will also be long finished, putting a bow on this section of Ridge.
Of course, Ridge Avenue is still missing one crucial ingredient that’s needed for a successful commercial corridor – the commerce. We’ve seen a smattering of small businesses fill empty retail spaces on Ridge, but the no doubt anchor business that will attract people from outside the neighborhood still hasn’t appeared. With so much shiny new retail space available, we have to think it’s only a matter of time, but it sure feels like we’ve been singing this refrain for a long while.