Repurposing a Church in Northern Liberties

Plus redevelopment for the lot next door
Mr. Fox

The Covenant House of God Church made its home for many years at 721 N. 5th St., an unremarkable building that looks like it was originally built as a row home. Last year though, the building, along with the vacant lot next door, went on the market. And given the desirability of real estate in Northern Liberties, it should come as no surprise that both were snapped up relatively quickly. Soon after, developers came to NLNA with a plan to repurpose the church and convert it into a 5 unit apartment building and we confess, we're surprised they got the variance they sought given that the property is zoned for single-family use. If you visit the property today, you'll see construction is moving along.

Construction, and a zoning notice next door

Look next door, and you'll notice there's a zoning notice posted on the fence in front of a vacant lot. 719 N. 5th St. was owned by the church, and now developers are looking to build a 6-unit apartment building here. Oddly, the zoning application mentions "demolition of existing trees," a detail we don't think we've ever seen. The project was scheduled to come to the ZBA this week, and we wonder what happened. We also wonder whether the developers would have attempted a multi-family proposal at 719 N. 5th St. without a similar project approved next door. Then again, with Liberties Lofts right across the street, it's not like this block is any stranger to apartment buildings.

Looking south on 5th Street, toward tons of construction

In contrast, the block to the south is currently exploding with single family home construction thanks to a couple of different projects that we've covered in the past. This is just another example of the block to block nature of Philadelphia, where a project might make perfect sense on one block and not so much sense just one block in any direction. Keeps things interesting, if you ask us.