The growth of student housing near Temple knows no bounds, with projects big and small dotting the neighborhoods surrounding the expanding university. The Nest on North Broad Street catches the eye because of its vertical presence, while Diamond Green draws attention to itself by taking up a big chunk of a city block at 10th & Diamond. In terms of sheer volume though, the smaller scale projects have truly dominated the student housing boom near Temple, filling in smaller sized vacant lots or replacing older housing stock with duplexes and triplexes. The mix of the old and new is on full display on the 2000 block of N. Carlisle Street, where maybe 15% of the buildings on the block have been either demoed and replaced or otherwise renovated to accommodate student housing.
As far as we can tell, this block was completely intact architecturally until around 2012, when developers started buying up properties. The buildings on the east side of the block are traditional Philadelphia two and three story row homes, while the western buildings are two stories and possess some unique and interesting architectural features. Not that we don’t have plenty of examples of both types of buildings on various blocks in town, but it’s still a bummer to see the elimination of any of these buildings, especially when you consider the bland buildings replacing them. And of course, this slow replacement process is continuing as the years roll by.
There are zoning notices posted to 2044-48 N. Carlisle St. calling for the demolition of the homes and the construction of duplexes. As we’ve seen for other properties near Temple, these homes are zoned SP-INS, a special institutional designation that forbids residential use. There’s an obvious hardship, and the ZBA clearly agrees with our analysis as they granted the requested variances. This will mean more students on the block and three new duplexes that won’t hold a candle to the buildings they’ll replace. Alas, there’s no real legal mechanism that would protect these homes outside of historic designation, but that approach feels wrongheaded for homes like these, which are really nice and interesting but not especially unique. If these were designated, it would seemingly open up a can of worms that would result in far more designation than we would consider to be reasonable.
If historic designation isn’t the answer, perhaps we can find some alternate way to regulate development that will at least prevent something like this from ever happening again.