There's been a staggering amount of new construction in West Philadelphia over the last several years, as developers have gobbled up vacant land or underused properties and built new student housing. Near Baltimore Avenue, we've started to see this development move past 50th Street. Farther north though, we can't think of much new construction past 46th or 47th Street. That's why we were so surprised to hear from a reader that spotted some major renovation activity on 52nd Street, north of Chestnut. Our mind immediately went to student housing, because that's pretty much all we ever cover when we write about West Philly.
In the past, 20 S. 52nd St. was home to an Olympia Sports location on the first floor, while the upper floors were boarded up and made the building look generally lousy. Still, the building had some great bones, with a notable feature being an old sign at the top that dubbed it the 'Nixon Building.' We don't know for sure, but we have to think that the building got this name because the Nixon Theatre stood next door for many decades, until its demolition in the 1980s.
In the past
If you visit the property today, you'll see that it's getting a major overhaul.
Every now and again, we pass along news of a sweet development opportunity and encourage anyone and everyone to consider taking advantage and making an investment. To give you a sense that we occasionally know what we're talking about, let's consider a recent example that worked out very well for a local real estate investor. It was a little over a year ago that we brought 1145 N. Delaware Ave. to your attention, noting that the 65K sqft waterfront parcel was going to auction with a minimum sale price of $3.6M. We shared some history, noting that a 168-unit project was sunk by the 2008 economic downturn, resulting in foreclosure in 2010. We also discussed the property's attractive location, right next to Penn Treaty Park, and its favorable CMX-3 zoning, which gives developers multiple by-right redevelopment options.
About a year ago
Aerial view of the property
In July of last year, developers purchased the property, paying $3.77M. Shortly after, they hired Abitare Design Studio to proceed with a zoning plan for 19 high-end 3,800 sqft townhomes, each with two car parking, elevators, etc. They even got a sweet rendering out of the deal.
If you're walking up 7th Street between Fitzwater and Bainbridge, you might notice an odd sight on the eastern side of the street. 715 S. 7th St. is a home with no front door. In fact, as far as you can tell from the street, it doesn't have any first floor at all.
View on 7th Street
This property has a long tunnel in place of a first floor, one that's wide enough for a car to pass through even if cars are parallel parked on one side. But you can see there's some bright light on the other side.
Peeking under the carriage house
Once you emerge from the tunnel, you'll find yourself on the lovely and well hidden 600 block of Kenilworth Street.
We were in East Kensington over the weekend, trying to snap some photos of new development, but road work diverted us onto Kensington Avenue. This ended up working out nicely, as we stumbled upon some new construction at 2459 Kensington Ave. that we previously knew nothing about. This large property had been owned by the City since 1990 and was set up as a basketball court, but the overgrown Google Street View images tell us that nobody was using it as such for the last several years. Developers bought it for $148K about a year ago.
Overgrown basketball court
This property looks rather different today, as it's an active construction site. Check it out:
Lou Wolff Auto has made its home at 501 E. Girard Ave., at the corner of Palmer & Girard, since the 1980s. But East Girard has changed dramatically, and a used car dealership just doesn't make much sense on the corridor anymore. It came as no surprise then, at the end of last year, when we learned that Mr. Wolff had sold his property and that the corner parcel would soon get redeveloped. At the time though, we didn't have a clue what to expect in place of the car dealership. And now we do.
Lou Wolff Auto, from a few months ago
Tomorrow, developers will present plans to Fishtown Neighbors Association in a meeting that might turn contentious even though the proposed project is permitted by right. The developers are planning a mixed-use building that will rise four stories and will include 71 apartments, up to 4 retail spaces, and 51 parking spaces with all but 4 of those spaces located in an underground parking garage. The 26K sqft parcel is zoned CMX-2 and the developers are using a couple of zoning bonuses to allow the project to move forward by right. Because over 60% of the roof area will be covered by a green roof, the developers are getting a density bonus. And because one of the retail spaces will be reserved for a fresh foods market, the developers are getting a height bonus.