We wandered through the desert for 40 years in 2020, and now it’s finally 2021 and everything is great. Right?
As is generally the case, our predictions in 2020 fell way short of the mark. No, the Eagles didn’t barely lose in the NFL Championship Game whose name rhymes with Duper Coal, and the Phillies did not make the playoffs. NIMBYs and YIMBYs didn’t start warring RCOs. Starbucks never opened on Frankford Avenue. Rather than construction starting at the Family Court building on the Parkway, the entire deal fell apart. Oh, and somehow we also didn’t anticipate a once-in-a-century global pandemic changing everything since the middle of March.
But we did get some things right. the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff did indeed reunite, just on HBO Max and not at Welcome America. Not one, but two sizable projects got approved on the northern side of Washington Avenue. City Council talked about the tax abatement quite a bit as the year came to a close, ultimately postponing the implementation of the reduced abatement by a year. A new project did indeed come down the pike for the huge vacant lot at 27th & Girard. And, uh, 8th & Market is still a parking lot.
We’ve proven time and time again that looking forward into the coming year is a fool’s errand- but we’re not letting that stop us from trying again. So here we go, with some predictions for 2021, guaranteed to come true or your money back.
North Broad Street will continue its upward trajectory in 2021, with several mixed-use projects breaking ground between Spring Garden and Girard. Development will continue to the east as construction will start in the spring on a new building at 12th & Girard, joining the ongoing construction sites at 10th & Girard and 8th & Girard. To the west, the Civic Phase 2 will break ground as well. Between these four projects, a yet unknown development coming soon to the southwest corner, and some other deals in the works, Broad & Girard will become a nexus for this section of North Philadelphia.
Speaking of hot spots, northern Northern Liberties and southern South Kensington will continue to pop in the coming year. We don’t expect that any of the 1000+ new units planned for this area will be online before the calendar flips again, but the expected influx of new residents will spur new businesses within a three block radius of 2nd & Girard and more sizable mixed-use projects. This includes new projects on Front Street, which will continue to blossom in 2021 and beyond. And maybe the long awaited Gretz project will finally happen too.
While we’re on the subject of things we’ve been waiting for, we think that 2021 will be the year that Ridge Avenue in Francisville finally takes that big step forward we’ve been anticipating for half a decade. During those years, this corridor has seen an explosion in new construction, to the point that there are hardly any older buildings that haven’t been replaced or renovated. Just about all of those new buildings have ground-floor commercial space, but it’s been a bit of a slog getting those spaces filled. Even last year, which was brutal for retail, we saw a few spaces get leased. We suspect a retail resurgence will be in store for the second half of 2021, and entrepreneurs will eagerly capitalize on several of those fresh commercial spaces and start Ridge Avenue back on the path toward commercial relevance.
We said it wouldn’t happen last year and we were right. But this year, we’ll take the other side of the action. You heard it here, Broad & Washington and 13th & Washington will break ground in 2021, ending an incredible stretch of embarrassing vacancy for these two prominent lots. The nearly 1500 apartments won’t be ready for a couple years, but you’ve gotta dig a hole before you start moving people into a building. And with re-striping on the docket as well, Washington Avenue is going to feel safer than ever as it moves toward a mixed-use future. That doesn’t mean it’ll be remapped though.
We have a feeling that issues relating to historic preservation will come to a head in 2021. Last year, we suggested creating a fund that pays developers a portion of the lost value if their property is designated historic, plus competitive tax breaks that encourage renovation and reuse over demolition. We also suggested prioritizing the creation of some mini-historic districts, an effort that, if implemented would have eliminated the possibility of the controversial planned demolition of 1513 Christian St., on a block that is known in the neighborhood as Block Doctors’ Row. But with budget shortfalls a regular issue at the Historical Commission and and an anticipated municipal budget crunch due to COVID, we won’t even try to guess how the City will approach its preservation issues.
Finally, here are some rapid fire predictions:
- In the coming months, a whole lot of restaurants will close. Some new ones will open, but commercial vacancy will persist into 2022.
- The 76ers and Flyers will both make runs to the conference finals, there will be no playoffs for the Phillies, and the Eagles will be the worst team in football.
- As the year goes on and the tax abatement change grows closer, there will be another burst of large scale projects that get announced as developers frantically work to get permits before the end of the year.
- Several of the big projects that were announced toward the end of 2020 won’t get built in 2021, or ever.
- Grays Ferry will be the next big thing, with Port Richmond right there as well.
- We’re going to get through this. By the time the fall rolls around and most people have gotten the vaccine, it’s going to feel like a party until New Years, at least. At that point, look for some more bad predictions, from us to you.