At 1722-40 N. Hancock St. you can find a handsome row of old industrial buildings that have sat mostly undisturbed for about a century. But you'd better go check them out soon, because the wrecking ball is coming.
1722 N. Hancock St.
These buildings were constructed over a period of time at the beginning of the 20th century, and were originally used for the manufacturing of textiles, specifically waste and shoddy. More recently, the buildings were home to Quaker Jobbing Co. Upholstery and Mattress Supplies, as a painted sign on the building indicates.
Sign on the building
When word came out that developers had the property under agreement, there was a submission to designate the property as historic which delved deep into the history of the buildings and the textile industry in Kensington. This came before the Historical Commission in October, with the designation getting voted down by a vote of 6-4. There was an incredibly dense conversation about the merits of the application which you can read here in the minutes, starting on page 25.
Money Max Funding operated out of the two-story building at 641 N. Broad St. for over a decade, primarily offering taxi medallion brokerage and other financial services for cab drivers. As Uber and Lyft have taken on a much larger role in getting people from one place to another over the last few years, the taxi industry has felt a dramatic pinch. And we have to think that this trickled down to Money Max Funding, as they're no longer operating out of their longtime home and the phone number on their website goes to a cab company. You can see, their signage has been stripped off the building.
Thanks to its industrial past, Fishtown has a plethora of old factories and warehouses that currently show various degrees of wear and tear. Since the neighborhood has experienced a development surge over the last several years, we've seen some of those old buildings demolished and replaced with new homes, others that have been converted to new uses, and others still that have maintained an industrial use and haven't really gotten any work done in years. One building that falls into the third category, 1102 E. Columbia Ave., might soon be in line some changes that would move it into the second category.
From what we understand, the Point Breeze Avenue commercial corridor was once an amazing neighborhood amenity, with such a selection of stores that neighbors rarely needed to venture to Center City for shopping purchases. Today, this is not the case, as the Breeze is home to more empty retail space and vacant land than businesses. In fits and starts, the corridor is reawakening, as a handful of new establishments have opened over the last few years, like On Point Bistro, Tasty Toast, Kind Institute, and most recently, Mattei Family Pizza. But Point Breeze Avenue still has light years to travel before it can be favorably compared to its similarly diagonal sister street, Passyunk Avenue.
We've been more focused on the northern blocks of the corridor, thinking that new businesses will drift from north to south in the same way that development has moved through the neighborhood. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that developers were looking to build a pair of mixed-use buildings on the 1600 block on Point Breeze Avenue. This block has more vacant lots than existing buildings, but it has been home to the Point Breeze Popup Beer Garden for the last couple years. The zoning notices at 1606 and 1650 Point Breeze Ave. sit on either side of the beer garden.
As we mentioned when we visited the 3600 block of Haverford Avenue over the summer, it's one of the worst looking blocks in the area. Aside from a colorful artist studio, the northern side of the block is entirely vacant, thanks to a seemingly fizzled effort to build a Mantua supermarket. There's a church and a vacant auto shop on the south side of the block, along with some more vacant land, making for a slightly less bleak situation than across the street. But the south side of the block has at least one upgrade in store, as the ZBA approved plans a few months ago for developers to demolish the empty auto shop and construct a mixed-use building with 21 apartments. You can see though, work has not yet begun.
Project in the works
And lo, another project could be coming to this block! There's some vacant land at 3604-08 Haverford Ave., immediately to the east of the auto shop. These lots were owned by the City for about 50 years and in an amazing and unexpected development, the current owner was able to purchase them. For reasons we cannot understand, the City sold the lots for a combined $55K, far below what they'd sell them for on the open market. Then again, the City doesn't really need money these days so who cares.