The north side of the 1600 block of Sansom Street has a fascinating recent history.
On the eastern side of the block, the former American Patriots Building, which nearly became a Hampton Inn in the late 1990’s, is home to Oakwood Apartments. This building offers both corporate housing and market-rate rental apartments. On the west side of the block, the still-newish Hotel Palomar has reinvented the classic Deco gem, the Architects Building, offering luxury accommodations with a LEED Gold certification.
The middle of the block, 1605-27 Sansom St., is where things get really interesting. What’s currently a surface parking lot was, for decades, a commercial strip that closely resembled the south side of the 1500 block of Sansom Street.
This block fell on hard times after it was acquired by infamous slumlord (and philanthropist) Sam Rappaport. Vacancies abounded, and the properties were poorly maintained. In 1999 or 2000, the row of buildings was acquired by a group that included Wayne Spilove, who was, at the time, head of the Historical Commission. The group’s plan for the site was a twelve-story parking garage with first floor retail, and by the end of 2000, they had demoed all but one of the buildings on the block. The one holdout, of course, was Minar Palace, which held a lease on its less-than-spick-and-span space until 2006. That building was been torn down, and the surface parking lot replaced a large, overgrown vacant lot soon after that.
So here’s the great news: A new developer has entered the fray, and has a plan to finally build on this site. According to the zoning application, this developer intends to construct a nine story building on this site, with 122 residential units and ground floor retail. No parking. From what we understand, final design details are still being worked out with CCRA and the neighboring property owners, but we have a feeling that this thing is going to happen.
While nothing can bring back the wonderful buildings that were lost over a decade ago, this new development promises to bring life back to this woefully underutilized block. And it’s about time.
Special thanks to this thread on Philadelphia Speaks, for sending us on the right path in researching the history of this parcel.