A little over two years ago, we called your attention to 101-109 Ellsworth St., noting that the collection of buildings was listed for sale for $1.2M. This property was known as Southwark House for over a hundred years, offering social services to the community. Southwark House merged into United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia somewhere along the line, but has continued to assist the needy with a variety of services. We didn’t know whether Southwark House was closing or moving or what, but given the residential development in the area, we were fairly confident that developers would snatch up the property relatively quickly.
It actually took a little while before the property traded, with developers paying $1.05M in late 2018. When we first covered the property, we speculated that developers could build seven townhomes here, but the buyers are instead opting for five homes. To be more precise, the developers are hoping to build five homes here, but will first need a variance from the ZBA before they’re able to move forward. We should note though, that they won’t need approval from the Historical Commission. Despite the attractiveness of the buildings currently on the site and the fact that they clearly date back a ways, they are not listed on the local Historic Register. We previously wondered whether they might be nominated in light of their listing on the market, but it seems that never happened.
As we said, a townhome project certainly makes sense here, and is incredibly consistent with other projects we’ve seen on the block and nearby. Just down the street, a row of homes is wrapping up construction, perhaps you recall this is a project we covered about a year and a half ago. Even prior to this project, the block had a staggering number of garage front homes, and from our reading of the zoning application, it seems the developers at 101 Ellsworth St. are planning to take the same approach. On a different block this might be a non-starter, but we have a feeling that this won’t be an issue on the 100 block of Ellsworth.
While we can’t be sure that this exact plan will get ZBA approval, we feel confident that some kind of residential project will eventually happen here, resulting in the demolition of the Southwark House buildings. And we’ll be sorry to see the old buildings torn down, as they have quite a bit of character and a connection to the history of the neighborhood. One thing we are pleased to share is that the United Communities office didn’t close, but has instead moved to a new space in Pennsport Plaza, a little deeper into South Philly. While its former home will soon be no more, we’re cheered to know that the good works in the community will continue.