The past and present of Ridge Avenue in Francisville are pretty well worn territory on this blog, but in case today is your first day on the site, here’s the (mostly) tldr version: This section of Ridge Avenue was once an active commercial corridor. Then the neighborhood endured decades of disinvestment, businesses left, and buildings crumbled. By the time developers starting operating in this neighborhood a few years back, there wasn’t much left. But over the last several years, we’ve seen a tidal wave of development on Ridge, with numerous new mixed-use buildings bringing density to the corridor. The retail spaces in those buildings have generally remained vacant to date, but we are very optimistic that those spaces will get filled sooner than later, and Ridge will regain its lost vibrancy.
To be clear, this narrative relates to Ridge Avenue in Francisville, from Fairmount to Girard. Beyond Girard is a very mixed bag, with some blocks possessing a decent mix of long established businesses. Nevertheless, every single block has some amount of blight and/or vacancy and on several blocks there’s more blight than there is business activity. We aren’t seeing a whole lot of private development on this part of Ridge, and we’d probably chalk much of that up to the fact that the Philadelphia Housing Authority controls so much property in this part of town. So you can imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon not one, but two new projects on the 2100 block of Ridge.
We actually don’t have all the details about the project at 2134 Ridge Ave., since no permits have been pulled as of yet. Based on the sign hanging on the fence in front of the property, we know that Stamm Development is the party that will be building here. On their website, they indicate plans for a multi-family building at this location, on a lot that’s a little over 10K sqft in size. That’ll allow for around two dozen units by right, along with a commercial space on the first floor. Utilizing some bonuses, that unit count could rise to around 40. This will obviously be a tremendous step up for a property that’s been sitting empty for over a decade.
Up the street, we see another project that’s considerably farther along in the process. 2155 and 2157 Ridge Ave. were sitting blighted for a long time, with both getting demolished in the last few years. Developers bought 2155 Ridge Ave. last year and they’re currently constructing a mixed-use building on the site, with three apartments and a retail space on the first floor. 2157 is still empty, but we see it traded earlier this year, so perhaps it too will get developed in the near future.
Now we’re left to wonder what these projects will mean for this section of Ridge Avenue. Should we expect to see a new wave of construction on these blocks of Ridge, since there’s very little left below Girard? Or are these projects just aberrations, investments spurred by Federal Opportunity Zones, unexpectedly attractive acquisition prices, or other factors? We suspect the answer will end up somewhere in the middle, with private development slowly trickling up Ridge Avenue into Sharswood, but never approaching the changes we witnessed in Francisville. Then again, we never expected so much construction on Ridge in Francisville, so at this point we’d be foolish to rule anything out.