Dueling Projects on Berks Street – Which Will Start First?

It’s a scene of flux at the corner of Mascher & Berks, where industrial buildings are being replaced by (mostly) residential uses. This is incredibly consistent with what we’ve seen throughout South Kensington over the last decade or so, but it really smacks you in the face when you’re looking at two sizable parcels across the street from each other which are both undergoing the transition. Plans for both have been in the works for years, incidentally, and only relatively recently have we started to see some forward movement.

North side, in the past

171 W. Berks St. was home for many years to a one-story industrial building, most recently used for a convenience store and an auto repair business. Historic maps indicate that Drakes Bakery once operated out of this location, and now we want a Devil Dog… and you probably want one too. Originally, the building was constructed as an adjunct structure to the Peter Woll & Sons Manufacturing Company building, which you can see next door in the image. Needless to say, it was a much less impressive edifice than its historic neighbor and its recent demolition wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme.

Current view

Back in 2016, we told you to expect a project here, with plans calling for 32 units over five stories. At some point in the last few years, those plans shifted, and now the building will have 28 units, with retail and 9 parking spaces on the first floor. Ambit Architecture did the design work, and we can expect a building that looks like this at some point in the near future.

Project rendering

More recently, meaning in early 2018, we told you about another project in the works at 150 W. Berks St., right across the street. This property had a collection of a few different industrial buildings, all of which were also once associated with Peter Woll & Sons. These buildings offered more architectural interest than the building across the street, but a historical nomination fell through because the developers had pulled a demolition permit before the submission of the historic application. And that’s why the buildings got torn down here about a year ago.

South side in the past
Current view

As we told you before, plans call for 23 townhomes and a couple of small mixed-use buildings at the corners of Mascher and Hancock. When we previously told you about the project, its potential was still up in the air, as it required a variance and hadn’t yet gotten that crucial approval from the ZBA. That happened in the spring of 2018, and demo permits followed the next year. The site has been quiet since, as has the permitting.

Project rendering

Since this project doesn’t yet have building permits, it’s surely months away from breaking ground, at a minimum. Figure the developers will push ahead on their permitting before the end of the year, given that any project that doesn’t have building permits by the end of the year will be subject to a reduced tax abatement. Across the street, meanwhile, the project has building permits as of May, so we could literally see site work start any day.

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