The incredible transformation of Ridge Avenue is Francisville is probably one of the biggest development stories in town over the last few years, but somehow it seems like it's been flying under the radar. Many decades back, Ridge Avenue functioned as a neighborhood commercial corridor, creating an environment where residents were able to fulfill virtually all of their shopping needs within a few blocks of their homes. If you turn back the clock just a few years, Ridge was but a husk of its former glory, overrun by empty storefronts, blighted buildings, and vacant lots.
Today the corridor is seeing an amazing revival, with new mixed-use buildings on almost every block. While most of the new retail spaces still remain unoccupied, developers are clearly betting that a growing Francisville will have a large appetite for retail on Ridge Avenue in the near future. As the current batch of projects are moving toward completion, there's another wave on the horizon.
We recently noticed a new hole in the ground at 816 N. 16th St., about fifteen paces south of Ridge Avenue. This property, along with neighboring 818 N. 16th St. and 1600 Ridge Ave., have been sitting vacant for many years and were collectively purchased by the same developer back in 2012. In 2014, said developer got zoning variances to build three new buildings on the three lots, which will mean the creation of three commercial spaces and ten new apartment units all together. We're not sure why they prefer three separate buildings to one larger, consolidated property, but who are we to question their process? We're just thrilled to see these vacant lots disappear.
Across the street, 1540 Ridge Ave. isn't long for this world. The building is currently home to an appliance repair shop and was previously a barber shop for quite some time. Developers bought this building earlier this year for $400K and last month got approval from the ZBA for a five-story building with ground-floor retail and eight apartments above. A project with similar specs was approved on the same day at 1534 Ridge Ave., giving us the sense that both properties will be developed by the same party. You may remember, earlier this year, we told you that the buildings at 1534 Ridge Ave. had been torn down but we didn't know what project would replace it. Now we know. Next door, foundations have been poured for another mixed-use project that we previously covered.
All of these new buildings are wonderful to see, but we're still struggling with the question of when businesses will start to fill in the new retail spaces. Everyone loves coffee shops and restaurants, but a neighborhood commercial corridor needs a diversity of businesses to truly thrive. Folks who live in the area, what types of businesses would you like to see on Ridge Avenue? What businesses would have the best chance of success?