The north side of the 700 block of Lehigh Avenue is home to a suburban style shopping center with a Save-a-Lot, a Family Dollar, a Kicks USA, and a Burger King. Generally, we wouldn't care for such a shopping center, as we prefer smaller businesses that are integrated into the urban fabric that don't include a sea of parking. From what we understand though, people who live nearby deeply appreciate the existence of this shopping center, not only because it adds amenities to the neighborhood, but because of what it replaced when it was constructed a couple years ago.
Current view from Lehigh Avenue
View from a few years ago on Lehigh Avenue
It was back in 2013 that we first covered this property, also providing the history of the site. Briefly, a gorgeous school was constructed here back in 1903 in the Collegiate Gothic Revival style, and this school eventually evolved into Northeast High School. As the condition of the school began to deteriorate and the neighborhood became more diverse, Northeast High moved to a location in the Northeast in 1957, taking along the school's history and most of its white students. The racially motivated nature of this move was not lost on the families that remained at the school, which was renamed Edison High.
Across the street from the Main Street UA 6 sits a collection of old industrial buildings that, until relatively recently, looked like they had been sitting abandoned for years. Workshop of the World tells us that this property, 3737 Main St., was home to the Wilde Yarn Mill, with the first building constructed back in 1884. Remarkably, the mill was still in operation, though in a limited capacity, until 2008. As we said, from looking at the property, you would not have expected this to be the case.
In the past
Over four years ago, we told you that a developer had designs on redeveloping the property to residential use, with plans for 45 apartments and 45 parking spots. Then it was radio silence on the property for quite some time. Sure enough, a new developer stepped in after a couple of years, purchasing the property from the previous group. The new owner, Barzilay Development, has plenty of experience in the adaptive reuse business, having converted the former Saint Matt's on Grays Ferry Avenue to the Sanctuary Lofts, among other projects. It was at some point within the last year that work got moving on the property, and the effort shows, especially with a staggering number of new windows.
If you just bought a mansion on Pine Street and are finding yourself a little short on original interior details, the folks at Architectural Antiques Exchange can probably help. Since the late 1970s, this place has specialized in antique pieces that date back as far as the 1700s, just in case your new mansion is in Society Hill. For those looking to class up their home, they specialize in antique mantels, doors, and furniture. And if you're looking for an authentic Irish pub setup in your basement, they've probably got your back in that department as well.
Bar setup from Architectural Antiques Exchange
This company operates out of a storefront at 709-15 N. 2nd St., a location that has gotten increasingly more attractive as the years have rolled along. Back when the business opened, Northern Liberties was in the proto stages of its rebirth and was still dominated by industrial buildings. Even as far back as we can remember, to the late 1990s, there wasn't much active retail in the immediate vicinity aside from the 700 Club and the long gone Liberties Bar.
Because our office is on Washington Avenue, we have the pleasure of seeing the Frankford Chocolate Factory just about every day. This building, located at 2101 Washington Ave., has been sitting vacant since Frankford Candy's last chocolate rabbit came off the line over a decade ago. A few different development plans came come and gone in the intervening years. Developer Tran Dinh Truong came up with a redevelopment plan in 2009 which got denied by the ZBA. Another effort to redevelop the property, this time in cooperation with architects Campbell Thomas, got approval in 2012. But Truong passed away only a couple months later, and the project didn't move forward without him.
Project rendering from 2012
A court order liquidation Truong's assets put the property on the market back in 2014, and by the end of 2015, new owners had stepped in, paying $8.5M for the property. But earlier this year, we noted that the building was still sitting vacant, and that signs had been posted to the facade, apprising firefighters of the fact. The following image is from back then, but it's still an accurate depiction of what's going on there. And that's to say, nothing.
Liberty Square under construction at formerly vacant lot
While Liberty Square represents a dramatic change, the opposite corner looks almost exactly the way it did five years ago. The bones of the building still look pretty solid, though the windows are all boarded up and some old metal security gates give the building a rather unwelcoming vibe. The building is listed for sale for $750K, and has been on the market since the end of last year. We feel as we did previously, that it could be a great development opportunity for the right developer, but the fact that it's been on the market for so long is evidence that we're correct in our belief that it's priced way too high.
We've been keeping tabs on the building at 4100 Chestnut St. over the years, first bringing it to your attention back in 2011. At that time, we noted that student housing player Campus Apartments had purchased the building, with longtime occupant Graphic Arts Inc. moving their operations to Port Richmond. The property is huge, with about 35K sqft of interior space and about the same amount sitting vacant, historically used for parking. With tremendous bones and a wonderful location to its credit, we wondered what would eventually fill this property.
View on 42nd Street
We checked in again on the property during the summer of 2013, noting that some of it was looking worse for the wear but other parts of the exterior had clearly undergone renovation. We noted that the owners of the property had a plan to build high rises on the vacant section of the parcel, but as you can see in the photo above that has not happened. As for the inside of the building, we're pretty sure not much has happened either. But a couple readers have reached out lately, letting us know that work has indeed been happening inside. And the expected tenant was quite a surprise.
Every now and again, a large piece of prime real estate becomes available in Center City, and all the big developers surely take notice. Such is surely the case with 500-510 S. Broad St., the 40K sqft parcel that's been home to Health Center No. 1 for the last few decades. Earlier today, we received an email informing us about a recently released RFQ from the PIDC, seeking parties interested in purchasing and redeveloping this significant parcel on Avenue of the Arts.
After closing the Abigail Vare School at 1619 E. Moyamensing Ave. in 2013, the Philadelphia School District put the property up for sale in 2014, ultimately selecting the Concordia Group as the buyer. If the name of this developers sounds familiar, it's because they're involved in another project in Pennsport, the Southwark on Reed project that's bringing almost a hundred new homes to the former Mount Sinai Hospital site at 4th & Reed. By 2015, Concordia had a plan in place for the former school, to convert the building into 45 apartments and build six townhomes next door on Mountain Street. It seems the project had to go through some small changes to appease the community, as the ZBA approved a project with 41 apartments and five townhomes next door.
If we quickly glance at the calendar, we see that it's 2017 and almost two years have passed since the ZBA blessed the project. We've been patiently waiting for the project to start moving forward, but it's been crickets at the site. This is probably due to the fact that the sale of the property has been jammed up in the legal system for almost two years, but the case finally got resolved back in May. So it should come as no surprise that the project now seems to be proceeding, as we spied a dumpster in front of the building when we passed by earlier this week.
Thanks to a reader tip, we visited 52nd Street earlier this week to investigate a potential student housing project in a building with some wonderful bones. It turns out the renovation wasn't aimed at creating residential units, but will instead result in a very large clothing store in a greatly improved building when all is said and done. As we were discussing that property, we mentioned that the Lincoln Theatre once stood next door, probably the reason it's known as the Lincoln Building. The Lincoln Theatre was demolished in the 1980s but we happened to notice a different old theatre very close by which has miraculously survived the ravages of time.
View in 1926, from Cinema Treasures
The Locust Theatre, on the northwest corner of 52nd & Locust, opened in 1914, according to Cinema Treasures, and originally showed a mix of moving pictures and vaudeville shows. By the 1930s, they nixed the live entertainment, and moved to movies only. In the 1970s, when many cinemas were closing their doors, the building was purchased by the Bushfire Theatre Company. The mission of the theatre company is to offer "greater opportunities to African American professional and non-professional actors, playwrights, directors and other theatre personnel." As a fringe benefit, the company has maintained this amazing building for the last forty years.
On the northeast corner of Broad & Snyder stands a building that hearkens back to another age and stands in direct contrast to the surrounding architecture. This building was originally home to the Beneficial Saving Fund Society, a precursor to Beneficial Bank. A bank named Beneficial occupied this building for over 80 years, until developers bought the property a few years ago. Almost three years back, we brought the building to your attention and noted that the owners had signed a lease with a mystery tenant.
In the past
Passyunk Post discovered that Wendy's would be taking over this building, and seemed quite distraught about the prospect. Many commenters were similarly upset and it seemed like people were going to come out in force against the project at the South Broad Street Neighborhood Association community meeting and at the ZBA. Despite the alarm, the project was granted a variance a little over a year ago. And now it looks like the Wendy's is approaching its opening date.