Around 2008, the four story building at 629 W. Girard Ave. was demolished. Well, that’s not entirely true- it was only mostly demoed, if we’re striving for accuracy. The upper floors of this long vacant structure certainly went away, but some elements of the first floor of the building remained for some reason. Behind what little was left of the building was an overgrown vacant lot, crying out for redevelopment.
We’ve actually brought this property to your attention before. Back in 2015, we told you about a zoning notice on the property, indicating a plan for 18 units above commercial space. That variance was approved the next year, but the project never came to fruition for some reason. Over a year ago, we told you about a plan for 24 units here but that didn’t happen either. Instead, the property continued to sit, even as the building to the west was renovated from a nuisance bar into a gastropub called Ambassador. Sometime in the last few months, however, the site was cleared (along with the theatre-turned-supermarket next door). Here’s a look at this part of the block from a couple weeks ago:
The fact that the remains of the old building are now gone from the site should be an indication that a development is finally on the horizon for this property. And wouldn’t you know, Philly.com had a story just the other day that indicates as much. Per our local paper, R&M Development is buying the property for $1.55M and will be constructing a six-story, 36-unit apartment building with retail on the first floor. Here’s a rendering, from Harman Deutsch Ohler.
Now our mental math has never been so great, but we’re pretty sure that 36 units is roughly twice as many units as were proposed a few years back. The reason for this is that the property was remapped to CMX-2.5 at some point in the interim. When the 2015 project came around, those developers needed a variance just to get to 18 units. These developers are able to pursue a taller, denser project as a matter of right. Unsurprisingly, without the zoning risk, they’re moving right ahead with their project. Let’s agree, a six-story building on Girard Avenue makes all kinds of sense, and the more liberal CMX-2.5 zoning is far more appropriate for Girard Avenue, over the previous CMX-2 zoning.
This is yet another confirmation of our eternal argument that zoning matters and remapping properties that are inappropriately zoned tends to have a positive impact on development possibilities. Washington Avenue and Point Breeze Avenue, we’re looking in your direction.