The Spring Garden neighborhood doesn’t see a ton of construction activity because there aren’t too many properties in need of redevelopment and also because its classification as a historic district makes development more complicated and expensive. In certain historic districts, developers can skate by with new construction that sort of resembles the surrounding buildings, as we’re seeing with an upcoming project in Parkside. In other areas, like Spring Garden or Society Hill, the local community groups are rather insistent that new construction blend in with buildings that were constructed over a century ago.
Nevertheless, we still see the occasional project in this neighborhood. Recently, we were going up 16th Street and happened upon a pair of projects less than a block apart, so it seemed natural to investigate both of them. First, let’s look at the corner of 16th & North, where three homes are currently under construction. The Philadelphia Housing Authority previously owned the building at the corner of this intersection, though it was sitting vacant for a number of years. Spring Garden CDC bought the property early last year and petitioned the Historical Commission to permit them to tear down the building despite its presence in the Historic District. Given the building’s significantly altered facade, we feel like the Commission made the right call in allowing the building to come down.
From what we can tell, SGCDC tore down the old building and sold the corner lot, along with the two adjacent lots, to an entity tied to North Broad Living. The project entails three homes, as we mentioned, all of which will face North Street. The homes will have rear access parking from a drive-aisle on 16th Street and we suspect they’ll sell at low seven figure prices.
Moving just a few steps to the south, another project has progressed a bit further at the corner of 16th & Wallace. While the project above took three lots fronting 16th Street and changed their orientation to North Street, this project is doing the opposite. Here, the developers are building four homes with 16th Street frontage and a drive-aisle that’s accessed from Wallace Street. We actually told you about this project a couple years back, when the zoning notices went up, and we’re pleased to see it’s finally moving forward and improving a property that’s been sitting vacant for as long as we can remember. For this one, we were able to get some renderings from Cope Linder, and you can see the way the homes will fit into the fabric of the neighborhood. You can also imagine the high price tags, like with the first project.
These two projects are great steps for the neighborhood, as they are taking underused properties and bringing them into active use. Unfortunately, a few steps away from these properties, at the corner of 16th & Mount Vernon, is a property that continues to languish.
We’ve told you about the Purvis House on numerous occasions, last checking in on the property four years ago. A reminder, this building dates back to 1859 and was once home to Robert Purvis, a man that helped thousands of former slaves acheive freedom and is considered to be the “President of the Underground Railroad.” Miguel Santiago has owned the property since 1977 and has proposed redevelopment on numerous occasions, and has only been successful in slowly tearing down sections of the building in failed attempts at construction. He’s currently tax delinquent to the tune of $25K and is somehow claiming a homestead exemption on a building that’s certainly not inhabited. For years, we’ve been hoping that the building would sell before it collapses, and those hopes continue. Unfortunately, our hopes aren’t going to shore up the walls of the building or pay off those tax delinquencies.