Development Opportunity Among Mansions Near Temple University?

In the years just before the founding of the school that would eventually be known as Temple University,¬†wealthy Philadelphians were building spectacular mansions for themselves in the neighborhood which Temple would eventually come to occupy. While the greatest homes were probably located on North Broad Street, there were some pretty amazing homes constructed off Broad as well, with several located on the 1500 block of N. 16th Street. The Disston House at 1530 N. 16th St. is probably the most impressive edifice remaining on the block, and it’s fortunately been well maintained by Unity Baptist Church for many decades.

Looking south on the 1500 block of N. 16th St.
Awesome building at 1530 N. 16th St.

As the Disston House was converted from a single family home to a religious use, all of the other mansions remaining on this block have similarly undergone significant internal reworking over the last century plus. Most of the mansions have been chopped up into smaller units, though we have to imagine that at least a few have remained “one-family” while being occupied by a bunch of Temple students. At least one property on the block is currently vacant, though. 1531 N. 16th St. was most recently listed for sale for $1.9M, and the listing indicates it’s in shell condition inside. The exterior would suggest as much, though it was actively used as a seven-unit rental just a few years back. The listing also indicates that a developer could build a 16-unit building here by right, though any buyer might run into an issue because the existing building is on the Philadelphia Historic Register and any alteration, let alone demolition, would require permission from the Historical Commission. We don’t imagine they’d approve any exterior demo, so a buyer would be limited to renovation and a bit of new construction in the rear of the property, on Sydenham Street.

1531 N. 16th St., in need of renovation

You might notice, there’s a ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign on the fence next to the property we just described. We saw the sign as figured that the vacant lot at 1529 N. 16th St. was available, but we were only half right.

1527-29 N. 16th St., for sale by owner

If you’re interested in 1529 N. 16th St., you’ll also have to take the historic four-unit building next door. The parcel is 48′ wide, which we believe would allow for the construction of a second building on the lot, though this would also probably require permission from Historic. The asking price is $950K, which actually feels somewhat reasonable given the opportunities offered by the jumbo property. Unlike its neighbor to the north though, this one doesn’t go street to street, and you can already see a different developer is currently working on a pair of triplexes on Sydenham that will surely be offered as student housing in the fall. Figure it won’t be long until someone is building something at 1529 N. 16th St. and block the view of those triplexes- maybe it’ll be you?

  • Eric Sao

    Great article about my neighborhood. My place is near 15th and Thompson so it’s great to see the neighborhood being regenerated and the empty lots filled in. Hopefully, the newly constructed buildings will have a place for trash and not sidewalk dumpsters like the apartment building on the Northeast corner of 15th and Thompson that always has trash overflowing. Their dumpster has litter all around it, it’s foul smelling and filthy. It’s great to read your articles on the development throughout the Center City area.