In covering just about any new project in South Kensington, we’re legally obligated to mention the neighborhood’s industrial past, even as that history relates less and less to the neighborhood’s present and future. As we’re generally believers in abiding by the laws of the land, let’s look together at 1643 N. 6th St., which is currently a large and vacant grassy lot that measures about half an acre. Looking at some historic maps though, we see a variety of former industrial uses for this site.
Back in 1875, a lumber yard covered this property, and stretched halfway down the block. By the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, Feister Printing Company operated out of a building that sat within the present day property lines. By the middle of the 20th century, Art Neckwear Co. and a sizable lunch stand occupied the site, finally pivoting to a junk shop as the years rolled along. We don’t know when the building was demoed, but we know that a junkyard was at the site through the late 1990s.
This neighborhood experienced decades of post-industrial disinvestment, but started to slowly turn around in the early 2000s as some of the remaining industrial buildings started getting converted to apartments or artist studios. That transition has gained tremendous momentum over the last decade, and these days it feels like developers are grabbing any sizable lots that are available, even if they come with zoning risk. 1643 N. 6th St. is a case in point, as the property was listed for sale in the spring for $3.5M and is currently under agreement with developers that are seeking a variance to redevelop the property. The proposal calls for two rows of 10 duplexes with parking spaces for all 20 units. Ten of the buildings will run along Cecil B. Moore Avenue, with another row running parallel on the other side of an east-west drive aisle.
According to the square footage of the property, it could theoretically accommodate 18 townhomes by right. That plan, however, would result in a fairly inefficient layout, plus we suspect it would also be less lucrative than the proposed duplex development. Not that homes wouldn’t work here as a new construction product, as the N5 Square project across the street proved in selling a bunch of homes in its first phase. That being said, that project also includes condos in duplexes and triplexes, so there’s obviously a market for those kinds of units over here as well. Assuming the project at 1643 N. 6th St. gets approval from the ZBA, the condo market will soon get another shot in the arm in this part of town.