Subaru Dealership Makes All the Sense Next to I-76 in Grays Ferry

In writing about Washington Avenue countless times over the years, we’ve railed against its outdated industrial zoning and hoped for a speedy remapping process which would permit mixed-use development by right on the corridor. Hasn’t happened, obviously. This isn’t to say that we’re opposed to industrial uses or industrial zoning in Philadelphia- it’s just that we grew up playing Sim City and locating industrial zones right in the middle of residential zones never made any sense to us. To be clear, we also grew up playing Mortal Kombat too, and we don’t condone that kind of violence. But we digress.

Ideally, we’d like all of our heavy industry to be located as far away from residences as possible. So please, let’s keep the factories away from homes and show how far we’ve come since the 19th century. Light industrial uses and large scale commercial uses are okay near residential areas, but on the edges is generally preferable. Take, for example, the property at 1400 S. 33rd St., which has been used for industrial purposes for close to a century. The buildings here were constructed in the 1930s by Coca Cola for use as a bottling plant, at a time that plans for I-76 were still coming into focus. The highway was constructed just to the west of the property by 1960, making an industrial building all the more appropriate for the location.

Northern side of the property
Hello, I-76

In recent years, the building has been on and off the market, functioning in part as an auto garage and looming large over the neighborhood while covering over an acre. If you pass by the property today, you’ll notice it’s in the midst of some significant renovation work. More specifically, the middle of the building is being torn down. At first, we figured that some kind of apartment building could be in store, but that’s totally not what’s happening. Instead, this entire building will soon be the one and only Subaru dealership within the city limits of Philadelphia. This doesn’t seem possible for a company whose US offices are based in Camden, but that’s indeed the case.

Future showroom
Ongoing demolition in the middle

The dealership will be the second Ciocca Subaru dealership, joining a location in Allentown. The showroom will be located on the southern end of the property, while the northern end of the property will be used for servicing cars and for parking. The plans call for three stories of interior garage space, ostensibly to store cars being sold and serviced. Given the current state of construction, we expect things to be wrapped up sometime later this year, and that’s great news for Subaru owners that are tired of shlepping to Cherry Hill for service.

Stinger Square, across the street

The only thing that’s a little unusual about a car dealership opening here is the fact that Stinger Square, a large public green space and playground, is located right across the street. Not that a dealership will change much for the park, but we’d think that homes would make a ton of sense here, with such easy access to desirable open space. On the other hand, homes don’t make as much sense with a highway in the backyard, and that seems to be the driving force in this situation, along with the zoning of the property.