As South Kensington has seen more and more construction over the last several years, developers are slowly pushing their way up into the Norris Square neighborhood, seeking additional opportunities. We’ve covered a smattering of these projects, like the new homes on the 2200 block of N. Howard Street, but aside from the Gotham Buildings adaptive reuse project, we haven’t seen a ton of developer interest on 2nd Street specifically. That makes sense- and if you ever travel north on 2nd Street beyond Berks, you’ll quickly understand. To put it simply, these blocks of 2nd Street are dominated by auto-centric uses. There are places selling cars, selling car parts, doing detailing, repairing cars, selling auto glass, issuing tags, and the list goes on. Most of these businesses include curb cuts and associated garages too, making the blocks inherently less attractive for residential redevelopment.
But things move quickly in this town, and as we’ve seen in other locations, the calculus can change on a dime for these businesses. We could be seeing the beginning of a transition now, with a former auto garage at the southeast corner of 2nd & Susquehanna. This building has some decent size to it, extending back to Palethorp Street. And the owners of the building also have traditionally owned the vacant lots immediately to the south. Roughly half a year ago, developers purchased the building and the lots next door, paying $350K for the parcel, which measures just shy of 10K sqft.
You might be able to see, there are some zoning notices posted to the property, announcing a plan to demolish the building and build a new mixed-use structure in its place. That building would have retail space on the first floor and 25 apartments on the upper floors. We don’t know the exact refusals for the project, though we suspect they’re related to density, and when we reached out to the local RCO, they weren’t able to share any additional info. The project was continued last month at the ZBA, so it might not be until 2019 that we get a firm idea of whether this project will move forward.
Assuming the project gets approved in some form similar to what’s currently proposed, it will represent yet another development foray into the Norris Square neighborhood and could portend similar projects in the future. Norris Square park is a sizable green space that’s half a block from here. The East Kensington border is just a couple blocks away, and the York-Dauphin El stop is pretty close as well. So this area has some things going for it, as do other addresses up and down 2nd Street. So maybe some of those garage owners will look to sell their properties in the coming years and relocate to other parts of town where residential or mixed-use redevelopment isn’t quite so tempting.
To be clear, we don’t imagine Norris Square will see a ton of new development in the immediate future. But figure we’ll be reporting on an increasing number of projects here moving, as it serves as a release valve for development in the neighborhoods to the east and south. When the next cycle comes around though, we could see development pick up more aggressively, if the best opportunities are tapped out in the adjacent neighborhoods.