More Apartment Buildings Coming Soon on the 1500 Block of N. American?

As we’ve told you many times before, N. American Street has generally retained its industrial character, even as South Kensington has experienced a residential boom on either side of the corridor. This stands in direct contrast to Washington Avenue, which is now (finally) on the cusp of making the transition from light industrial building supply haven to mixed-use connector of Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze. Despite its continued industrial nature, we’re still seeing changes on N. American Street, and some of them have a distinctly residential quality to them. On the 1500 block, there’s plenty to consider in this regard.

Joule building at N. American & Jefferson

On the northwest corner of N. American & Jefferson stands a building that’s one of the more unique edifices you’ll find in this town. The building, which its developers dubbed ‘The Joule,’ contains four residential units on the upper floors. The ground floor has part of the office for Solar States, a solar company that’s been on this block for some time. As you might expect, the building has solar panels, hence the name. While we might prefer retail on the first floor, the light industrial office use makes sense for the corridor.

Townhomes under construction on the east side of the street, apartment building coming eventually
Rendering of Techadelphia project

Things are a little more complicated on the eastern side of this block. You can see in the photos above, a row of town homes is currently under construction, with their backs facing a still-vacant lot on N. American Street. As we told you before, this project called for 18 homes on Philip Street and a large building on N. American St. called Techadelphia, with 68 apartments, a restaurant, and a 15K sqft co-working space, free to tech startups. One of the owners of the property tragically passed away last year, and its co-owner is now looking to sell off the mixed-use portion of the property for $3.9M. Whoever buys the property won’t be obligated to offer a free tech co-working space, which means that this building will likely get built with no industrial component at all. Figure it probably won’t have the same appearance as in the above rendering, either.

1514 N. American St.

Going back to the western side of the block, you may recall we told you about half a year ago that the warehouse at the corner of N. American & Oxford was available for sale and could represent a development opportunity, but that property came off the market over the summer. Perhaps investors were spooked by the ongoing saga of 1514 N. American St., a 5,000 sqft lot that developers have been trying to redevelop over the last several years. Most recently, developers came to the ZBA with a plan to build a ten-unit building there, with ground floor retail/light industrial uses. It’s been held by the ZBA for a couple months, so we don’t know whether it’ll get approval or not. An active listing on Loopnet would seem to suggest the latter.

Philadelphia needs to hold onto some industrial corridors- and they can’t all be located in sections of the city far from downtown or the highways. So we’re generally on board with N. American St. maintaining its current zoning map. But it’s tough to develop small scale industrial buildings without including some kind of residential component. And such projects require approval from the ZBA. And that introduces considerable risk to any investment. In short, we’ll surely continue to see projects come down the pike on N. American St., but those projects will come in fits and starts, aside from any large scale industrial development which can be done as a matter of right.