Some projects we cover are from way out in left field, like a 32-unit apartment building in the middle of Port Richmond, or a random triplex near 8th & Master. Other projects though, are so intuitively logical that when they finally come around, we find ourselves feeling like we’re gonna have a heart attack and die from not surprise. As you might imagine, it’s the latter case with this particular story, a plan to redevelop the northwest corner of 17th & Fairmount. For as long as we can remember, this corner has been home to Stone’s Beverage Center, a beer distributor. But times are changing.
A reader reached out yesterday, giving us the heads up that zoning notices have been posted to the property. Those zoning notices indicate plans to demolish the existing building and construct a mixed-use building with two retail spaces on the first floor and 22 apartments on the three upper floors of the building. The name on the zoning notice is Michael Loonstyn, a developer that’s built numerous projects on and around Fairmount Avenue over the last several years. But he’s not alone- several developers have taken an acute interest in Fairmount Avenue during the current development cycle. Hence, our total lack of surprise in learning about this project.
Immediately next door, Loonstyn recently constructed a mixed-use building with ten units, on a property that was previously a one-story garage. Over the summer, the excellent Rybread moved their operations to the retail space here, from cramped quarters on the 2300 block. On the southeast corner of 17th & Fairmount, MM Partners redeveloped the AF Bornot Lofts a couple years back, a project that includes 17 apartments and several retail spaces. That building had been sitting vacant for so many years. And don’t forget 1720 Fairmount down the block, a new construction apartment building with Bar Hygge on the first floor.
These buildings, and a few others, have radically changed the landscape of the Fairmount Avenue corridor, adding tons of new residents and several new businesses. Given the success that developers have had in building mixed-use on the corridor, it was only a matter of time before Loonstyn, or someone, found a way to acquire the Stone’s property and bring it up to a higher and better use. That being said, the loss of a beer distributor is no small thing for this neighborhood, and we wonder where the good folks in Spring Garden and Francisville will be getting their cases of beer in the near future. For better or worse, we don’t imagine that a new construction retail space would accommodate the needs of such a business.
Update: According to some commenters, Stone’s is sticking around. Drink a cold one in their honor.