Red Herring Demolition on Schuylkill Avenue

Schuylkill Avenue sees a ton of vehicular traffic every day, as it provides one of two access points to the eastern side of the South Street Bridge. Befitting its most common role as a way to get from here to there, the four blocks of Schuylkill Ave. are far from pretty. Highlights include the Veolia Plant, a Peco facility, Peco transformers, some surface parking lots, a couple old industrial buildings, and the back of Naval Square. Perhaps the highlight for Schuylkill Ave. is the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research, an office building associated with CHOP which was completed just a couple years ago. While the building and its associated public spaces are a positive for the street, the huge surface parking lot affiliated with the building certainly doesn’t help matters. It’s worth noting that CHOP has plans for three more buildings on this block in the coming years, so the surface lot won’t be here forever.

Nevertheless, Schuylkill Ave. is loaded with potential. Development has swept through the Graduate Hospital neighborhood over the last two decades, but has largely skipped over Schuylkill Avenue with the exception of the aforementioned CHOP facility and Naval Square. While the Peco properties aren’t going anywhere, there are a handful of parcels which could get redeveloped and represent the largest underutilized properties in the neighborhood off of Washington Avenue. 801 Schuylkill Ave. represents such a property, taking up just shy of an acre and half covered by an old industrial building that was once owned by the forerunner of Septa.

In the past

The property looks nothing like this today, as it’s currently being demolished. When a reader reached out to give us the heads up about this, we were immediately excited about the possibility that the property had traded and that redevelopment could be on the horizon.

Current view
From the north

Turns out, that’s not what’s happening. Per public record, the building is being demolished in response to violations on the property due to the building being declared unsafe. The City is tearing down the property in this case, and will send the bill to the owner. We don’t imagine that such a job comes at a particularly low price tag, but we also don’t know whether it will push them toward selling their property in the near future.

Looking up Schuylkill Ave.

Interestingly, there was a proposal to redevelop this property back in 2007, with a plan to build an apartment building with 126 units and 194 parking spaces. The proposal was held at the ZBA and looks like it never got a ruling, and it obviously never came to fruition. We’d think that such a plan would make even more sense today than it did back then, with the neighborhood improving as a whole and the street looking far better now than it ever has. Ultimately, we imagine someone will eventually come forward to purchase the property and we’ll see something new happen here- but we couldn’t tell you whether the ongoing demolition is bringing us any closer to that or whether it’ll simply happen in its own time.