adaptive reuse

Combination of new construction and a former frat house

Perry World House opened to the public in September, shortly after the fall semester got started at Penn, after about a year of construction. In finally getting around to covering this building, we admit we're a little late to the party. But better late than never, we'd say, and this especially applies when sharing images of a building this excellent.

The finished building

We first told you about this project in the fall of 2015, shortly after construction got underway. At the time, we shared some of the history of the 3800 and 3900 blocks of Locust Street, where most of the buildings were demolished when Penn built the superblock section of campus in the 1960s. Only a few structures remained, including 3803 Locust St., a building that was designed by Samuel Sloan and dated back to the 1850s. The building was used by a fraternity for many years, but had been sitting vacant in anticipation of this project.

Retail space and one residential unit

A couple of readers have reached out in recent weeks, wondering about the ongoing construction at 1425 Federal St., a building that was most recently the home of Mel Davis Used Cars. Just a few years back, when Mr. Davis was still doing his thing, there were two other auto centric businesses on the 1400 block of Federal, with Model Auto Body Co. and Dong's Auto Repair. Now only Dong's remains, as the Model building was demolished as part of an upcoming apartment project which we covered last fall.

In the past

If you visit this property today, you'll notice that it's under heavy construction. What gives?

Project is approved, construction starting

A reader tipped us off recently that work is getting started on a project that will breathe new life into a currently unappealing warehouse on the southeast corner of 28th & Cambridge. We actually told you about this project a little over a year ago, right before it came before the community. The project apparently found favor, as it got approved by the ZBA a few weeks later. Checking in on the building today, we see only small signs that construction has gotten underway, like the presence of a construction fence and a hole punched in a former window openening. But we do see they got their first building permit last month, so construction efforts should soon grow much more apparent.

Former prison has housed non-profits over the years

You're not going to believe this, but we have a story about a property in the vicinty of Temple University that doesn't involve student housing. We were up in that neck of the woods earlier today, and as we were meandering about the neighborhood, an old building with a historic marker caught our attention. At 1901 W. Oxford St. stands a building that was originally built as a prison or perhaps a police station, but has been used by non-profits in recent decades. In 1961, according to Phillyhistory, the building was sitting empty.

View in 1961

Amazingly, the building was not demolished, but gifted by the City to the Opportunities Industrialization Center, a non-profit dedicated to fighting poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. Somewhere along the line, OIC moved its offices to North Broad Street, and a sign appeared on the front of the building that it would soon be the home of another non-profit, the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Community Foundation. This organization is all about youth services and combatting youth violence, and we're pretty sure that the organization has moved into the building even though it's still undergoing some renovation.

Block has really turned the corner

Desiring a return visit to Pizza Dads, we trekked to Brewerytown with a purpose this past weekend. After destroying a slice, we figured it would be responsible to try to walk off some of the calories and decided to check in on some development projects in the neighborhood. We were impressed when we got to the 1200 block of N. 27th Street, noting the significant progress since our last visit in October. This block is anchored by North Abbey at the corner of 27th & Girard, an attractive former church that was converted into apartments a couple years ago. Soon after, the same developers built a duplex next door, which was a sign of things to come.

Maybe this time something will happen

A couple years after a proposal stalled out at 1217 E. Columbia Ave., developers are giving it another shot. Currently, this address is home to a warehouse that's a throwback to a more industrial time in the neighborhood. But looking around the area today, the building doesn't much fit in with its surroundings.

One off from the corner

In the summer of 2015, developers came to the community with a plan to demolish the building and replace it with an eight unit apartment building that would have included six parking spots. But the neighborhood pushed back because the property is zoned for single family homes. The parcel could be legally subdivided and a pair of homes could be constructed by right, but the subdivided lots would be oversized and the homes would have hilariously large back yards. At the time, the head of the FNA zoning committee indicated that the neighbors preferred homes over apartments because homes would fit better into "the character of the area."

Hands up

In its industrial heyday, Northern Liberties was a mix of warehouses, factories, and homes for the people that made Philadelphia the Workshop of the World. We're not telling you anything that you don't know when we say that industry has almost entirely dried up in Northern Liberties, as gentrification has taken hold and hundreds of homes and numerous small businesses have sprouted up in the neighborhood. The exception to this rule has been the southern section of the neighborhood, between Callowhill and Spring Garden. With a few exceptions, this section of the neighborhood is mostly warehouses, surface parking lots, and low commercial buildings. Again, we state the obvious when we say that it's pretty crappy over here.

But there is change in the air! We told you a few months ago about plans for a pair of apartment buildings at 4th & Callowhill which would be an amazing step in the right direction for this area. But we couldn't tell you if or when that project will move forward. Somewhat more concrete are plans for Yards Brewing Company to move from Delaware Avenue to 456 N. 5th St., a huge building that was last home to Destination Maternity. Not only will Yards brew their beers here, but they'll be opening a tasting room which will activate the corner of 5th & Spring Garden, a space that rather dead right now.

What a combination

If you want to be a hero at work, one of the best ways is to show up with a dozen donuts from Beiler's. They're delicious, they're relatively inexpensive (11 bucks for a dozen!), and for some added comedy, the Fruity Pebbles donut has been known to provoke the occasional office brawl. But alas, if you don't live or work near Reading Terminal Market, Beiler's has represented a neigh impossible dream.

But no longer. About a month ago, Beiler's opened up a new location at 3900 Chestnut St., on the first floor of the Chestnut Hall apartment building. Now, Penn students, Drexel students, and the tens of thousands that work on this side of the river have easy access to Beiler's and new office heroes are emerging every day. The donuts are just that powerful. We didn't even dare walk in the door, for fear we'd be unable to resist the urge.

It certainly could happen

Parking sure is tough in Center City, and it could soon get tougher. You may recall, last month we told you that we had heard that developers were buying the parking garage on the 2000 block of Lombard Street and would close it by the end of the year. We predicted that this building would be demolished and replaced with town homes in a by-right project, as the property is zoned for multi-family use. Needless to say, this would result in the loss of a couple hundred parking spots for the neighborhood.

Garage on the 2000 block of Lombard

For those wringing their hands about this project, we've got more bad news. At the same time that this property was listed for sale, another property, 414 S. 16th St., was also listed just a few blocks away. And in case you're wondering, it's also a parking garage. While we'd heard about movement for the garage on Lombard Street, we hadn't heard much about the garage on 16th Street. But in the last couple days, we've heard rumblings that this garage is also under agreement. We have to imagine that this will mean it will also close its doors in the near future, with residential redevelopment a likely outcome.

Another vacant lot disappearing on Front Street

Back in the fall of 2014, we brought a development opportunity to your attention, as 1523 N. Front St. was listed for sale for $2.1M. We noted that the property included a building that had been built as the United Presbyterian Church in 1850 but had been used as a warehouse for a contractor in recent decades, and worried that a developer buying the property might tear down the former church in favor of unexciting new construction. It seems we weren't alone in that concern, as it was nominated to the local historic register shortly after we wrote our story. No question, designation depressed interest in the property and resulted in a reduced sale price of just over $1.5M when the building finally changed hands about a year ago.

When we checked in on the property last fall, we learned that Domani Developers had purchased the property and noticed that renovation work was just getting started. But we didn't know exactly what was in store for the building. Commenters living in the neighborhood gave us the low down, explaining that Domani was converting the building into office space and had plans for their own offices as well as office space for the quickly growing City Fitness empire. Looking at the outside of the building today, we see that there's been some major progress, with new windows installed in many places. We have to assume that there's been good progress inside as well.