Howard Street Losing a Cool Industrial Building, Gaining a Bunch of Apartments

Like countless other properties in South Kensington, the buildings at the northeast corner of Howard & Norris were used for industrial purposes for decades, dating back to the 19th century. Way back when, the site was used by a few different carpet mills, and into the middle of the last century, American Brass Company made its home at this location. We couldn’t tell you exactly when the brass company moved on, but most recently, the unique industrial building has housed a makers collective, with various artisans producing ceramics, products out of wood and steel, furniture, and the like. Did we mention that the building looks really unusual and pretty awesome? We don’t know whether the pointed roofline was merely an aesthetic choice or somehow related to brass manufacturing, but we can’t think of any other examples of this kind of design in town.

Current view
Looking up Howard Street
Closer look at the existing building

You can probably figure out where this one is going. The building is under agreement with Onion Flats and they are pursuing a plan to demolish the building and replace it with something new and different. They’re calling the project Copper Flats (because the name Brass Flats was taken?) and it will entail an apartment building on Howard Street and an identical apartment on Hope Street. Each building will rise four stories and will include 4 artist studios on the first floor, 40 rental apartments over the rest of the building, and 13 first floor parking spaces. If we can help with the mental math, that’s a total of 8 studios, 80 apartments, and 26 parking spots.

This project is completely by right according to the property’s IRMX zoning designation, with the developers checking the necessary parking box and the necessary “industrial” box by including those artist studios. Though the project is by right, its size necessitates an appearance at Civic Design Review, for non-binding design feedback. Given the attractive design of the building from Plumbob, we don’t imagine there will be too many changes to the project’s appearance.

Project rendering
Current vs. future view on Hope Street

Though we’ll be sorry to see the interesting industrial building disappear, we’re pleased that there’s an attractive project that’s replacing it. It’s also worth noting, this project is pretty far north in the neighborhood, and its construction and the new residents could open the door to additional projects creeping closer to Norris Square. Then again, this property is just half a block from Front Street and the edge of East Kensington, so maybe it makes more sense to look at it as an extension of East Kensington development than South Kensington development. Either way, it should mean some increased ridership at the Berks Street El station, just around the corner.