The West Passyunk neighborhood isn’t one we cover too frequently in this space, since it doesn’t see a whole lot in the way of development activity. The neighborhood’s boundaries, for those unfamiliar, go from 18th to 25th Street from east to west, and Mifflin Street to Passyunk Avenue to the south. Point Breeze gentrification hasn’t generally made its way this far to the south, Girard Estates is to the south and has barely changed in decades, and the 25th Street viaduct to the west creates a pretty significant physical neighborhood barrier. While East Passyunk is home to more restaurants than we care to count and a thriving retail scene, West Passyunk isn’t as friendly to pedestrians and possesses a much more sparse commercial climate. There’s a world in which this neighborhood remains largely the same over the next several years, but we can also envision a scenario in which developers move in, renovating older homes, building new residences, and eyeing opportunities on the Passyunk or Snyder Avenue corridors.
There’s at least one developer that has some optimism about this neighborhood, and that’s the owner of 2031 S. 20th St., a property that’s been sitting vacant for a long time. We passed by just the other day, and noticed that there’s a sizable new foundation on the site. Developers bought the property last year, paying $415K for the 5,000 sqft parcel. Looking at the permits, we realized that developers are building a 12-unit apartment building here, a project that required a variance from the ZBA because the lack of ground-floor retail. Given the commercial corridor around the corner, we’re all about the fact that there’s not going to be any retail here, and wonder why this entire block of S. 20th Street is zoned for mixed-use commercial.
This is obviously great news, as we’re cheered (almost) any time a new building replaces a vacant lot. We should mention, the vacant lot next door, which goes to the corner of Snyder Ave., is owned by different developers and we don’t see any permits for that one at the moment. We wonder whether the ZBA will be quite so willing to provide a variance to avoid retail here, since the property is on the corner of a retail corridor. On the other hand, Snyder Avenue isn’t exactly attracting tons of credit tenants at the moment, so it’s possible that a mixed-use project here wouldn’t work economically at this time. If the ZBA wouldn’t grant a variance to skip retail and a mixed-use building doesn’t work financially, it’s quite possible that this parcel will continue to sit vacant for the foreseeable future. Of course, if that scenario where West Passyunk sees increased developer interest comes to fruition, something could happen here sooner than later.