We’re not telling you anything you don’t know when we say that South Kensington has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. Despite this neighborhood’s close proximity to Northern Liberties, it languished for decades as it attempted to recover from significant disinvestment and an exodus of industry. Things really started to change in the early 2010s, as Fishtown began taking off and developers started looking for properties with almost-Fishtown or almost-Northern Liberties locations but lower prices. And so South Kensington, with its huge inventory of vacant land, started to see projects large and small dot its landscape. Nary a block remains untouched by now, but some blocks have been more touched than others.
Like for example, the 1400 block of Germantown Avenue. Turn back the clock to 2009, and there were no shortage of development opportunities on this block. Half of the properties were vacant land and the rest were either vacant buildings, occupied buildings which looked vacant, old industrial buildings, and an auto shop thrown in for good measure. We first visited this block in the summer of 2014, and described it thusly: “The 1400 block of Germantown Ave. in South Kensington looks awful. Blighted, empty buildings bookend overgrown vacant lots, despite new development springing up all over the area. If blocks could think, we suspect this one would be wondering when its time will come.”
Soon enough, things started to turn around for this block. By early 2015, nine homes were under construction on the western side of the street. Just a few months later, a blighted building was being demoed and construction was starting on a couple duplexes and a triplex. A few years later, a former industrial building was being converted into apartments, while another industrial building had been demoed, with a pair of new apartment buildings appearing in its place. These projects collectively changed the narrative on this block, but there was still underused property on the block. At this point though, those numbers are dwindling down to zero.
1400 Germantown Ave. was torn down a few years back and last year a project finally started moving forward here. This property, which saw a couple attempts at the ZBA, now has a nearly completed four-story building with four apartments and retail on the first floor. And might we add, we dig the white brick on the facade.
Up the block are three other projects at various stages of construction. The long vacant lot at 1410 Germantown Ave. is currently a hole in the ground. Soon enough though, there will be a ten unit building here. Continuing to the north are the Moscow and Monica buildings, with the northern building at 1627 Germantown Ave. seemingly still needing some finishing touches. These buildings contain a total of 125 rental units, with sizes ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. Finally, at 1429 Germantown Ave. is a project called Germantown Square, which also replaces a vacant lot. This project has 18 condo units arranged in a low rise building around a courtyard, with five units already sold. Four more units are slated to be done this summer, with prices ranging from $265K to $450K.
From what we can tell, only two vacant lots remain on this block at this time. When you consider what this block looked like before, and the incredibly short time frame, this is nothing short of incredible. Of course, as we’ve said before, this block is a bit of a microcosm for South Kensington as a whole, though it was one of the most desolate blocks in the neighborhood before and now it’s one of the most fully developed. Still, these rapid changes help explain why we’re seeing increased developer interest in Ludlow and Norris Square, as opportunities are increasingly dwindling around here.