Francisville will soon get five new triplexes, but it will come at the expense of a church. We happened to pass by the 1500 block of Cambridge St. the other day and noticed a zoning notice at 1510 Cambridge St., the home of the Church of God Through the Truth. Many churches around town are architectural spectacles, but this one looks like it may have had a former life as a warehouse or garage.
The building, along with the vacant lot to the west, were listed for sale earlier this year for $1.3M. Last week, developers went before the ZBA for permission to build five triplexes here. This is necessary because this side of the block is zoned for commercial use. Perhaps this was appropriate at one point, but now residential seems like the correct path. The north side of the block is entirely residential, with a line of buildings that have seemingly escaped the wave of development that's swept over the neighborhood in the last few years.
The 400 block of Wiota Street is a rather quiet residential block in West Powelton, just north of the very bustling 4000 block of Baring Street. Prior to this decade, the street, and many of the surrounding blocks, were rife with vacant lots and structures. Now, due to its proximity to the college campuses of University City, the street is a major construction zone. As we walked from the northern end of the block, we spied three brand spanking new apartment buildings in a row, at 439 Wiota Street, which are part of a project called 40/Spring which also encompasses similar looking buildings around the block on 40th Street. We checked in on this site last fall and now the project is just about finished and most of the units are already reserved or occupied.
You can see, the inside of the building has been completely gutted and all the windows have been removed. It appears that some framing has happened inside, suggesting progress toward the apartments that will eventually fill the building. On a somewhat frustrating note, Camac Street is blocked off due to the construction.
Packer Park neighbors are surely pleased, as a large blighted building has disappeared from their midst. Last year, we brought 3200 S. Broad St. to your attention, mentioning rumors that owners PSDC would soon be demolishing the property. The building, which had sat vacant for many years, had been an orphanage at one point. Now the site is just a large vacant lot.
In the past
The other day
The parcel covers almost 3.5 acres- that's a huge chunk of land which would allow for all sorts of different development possibilities. Previously, we speculated about the future for this property. We considered a medical use, like the surgical center and CVS immediately to the south. We thought about commercial use, like the shopping center around the corner on Packer Avenue. We also considered residential as a possibility. Given the size of the lot, over 300 apartments would be permitted by right if the property was zoned for commercial or multi-family use. But it's zoned for single-family homes. If memory serves, a developer could subdivide and build about a hundred homes here by right.
Back in the day (about 15 years ago), when there were over a thousand vacant lots and buildings in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, 908 S. 21st St. kind of blended in with its surroundings. As the neighborhood has improved and vacant lots and buildings have disappeared, this building's condition has worsened while becoming more and more obvious.
In the past
But hark, the building has been demolished! Perhaps due to all the L&I violations.
Building has been demolished
Developers purchased this property earlier this year for a whopping $260K. They can build a duplex here by right, which would seem to be the way to go here. No doubt, the neighbors won't be sad to see a new structure arrive on the scene. The same could surely be said for 2100 Carpenter St., just a few doors to the south, but that building remains vacant and blighted.
This building is still around
This property has had the same owners since 2006 and has a ton of violations, but very little tax debt (surprisingly). It recently got a Doors & Windows violation, which means that it should at least look less horrible in the near future. Or perhaps the people who own it will be inspired to sell the thing.
Sydenham Street, which runs between 15th & 16th Streets, is one of those random north-south streets in Philadelphia that comes and goes as you move through town. If you're at all familiar with it, it's probably because you've been to the incarnation near Temple University, or the one-block stretch between Walnut and Locust that's home to Elixr. Today though, we turn our gaze to the 1100 block, the only block of Sydenham Street in all of Point Breeze. We actually visited this block, which starts on Federal Street and dead-ends before it gets to Ellsworth, a couple years back.
At the time, the block was a total mess. Only a handful of homes on the block were occupied. Many vacant buildings looked like they were ready to crumble. And we saw a bunch of vacant lots too. But our message was one of hope. One of the vacant buildings was getting rehabbed, and two of the vacant lots were getting developed. That rehab is currently on the market, and both of those homes have been built and sold.
Looking up the block
Today the block is still pretty far from looking like Delancey Street, but it's slowly making positive strides. On the east side of the block, a new home has appeared and a second one is under construction.
It was over three years ago that we first brought 1601 Mount Vernon St., the "Purvis House," to your attention, lamenting the poor condition of this historic structure. In case you don't remember and don't feel like clicking back to the old story, the building was constructed in 1859 and was once home to Robert Purvis, a man considered to be the "President of the Underground Railroad." It's likely that Purvis helped thousands of former slaves achieve freedom. Today, what's left of his former home remains in bad shape.
Looking down 16th Street
Miguel Santiago bought the property in 1977 and still owns it today. Several times, he's proposed redeveloping the property, most recently coming up with a plan to develop three condo units plus parking. In November of 2012, the rear of the property came down, either intentionally or because years of vacancy caused part of the building to crumble. In the years since, the rubble has been cleared and a hole in the ground has been filled, but no other work has taken place from what we can tell. Earlier this year, the owner altered a permit from 2011 to replace the eastern wall of the building with salvaged brick. But it doesn't look like that has happened as of yet, nor would we swear that it will ever happen.
Back in 2011, when the Southstar Lofts project was still just a twinkle in Carl Dranoff's eye, we brought 1323-25 South St. to your attention, lamenting its blighted condition. At the time, we gave you all the details on the property, which has been owned by a gentleman named Donald Turner since 1997. The building has a 2,240 sqft footprint and probably has an interesting history, but we can't find anything about it. Sadly, today it looks pretty much the way it did when we first told you about it more than three years ago.
It's been vacant for quite some time
But just when we thought the building would never get redeveloped, it seems that it could finally return to active use. Last month, signs appeared on the building announcing a presentation at a Washington Square West Civic Association zoning meeting.
A couple of weeks ago, we heard some legitimate complaints from a reader living on the 1500 block of Brown St. about the condition of several of the properties on the 1500 block of Ridge Ave. which back up to her property. Not only are the properties an eyesore, but one of them apparently caught fire a little while back. Thankfully, the fire department was able to take care of things before the fire spread. We recently made our way over there and can certainly appreciate why someone wouldn't enjoy having some of these properties behind their home.
Backs of buildings on Ridge Ave., view from Brown Street
Some of the properties on this block have been renovated while others are long vacant and in terrible condition.
About a year ago, we wrote about N. 7th Street between Girard and Thompson, a blighted block in need of a facelift and dotted with potential for development. We were drawn to this block by a project at the corner of 7th & Thompson that was at that time under construction but is now complete. We noted several blighted buildings and vacant lots that begged for redevelopment just to the south of the new development, but we wondered whether it would take several years of additional Northern Liberties and Fishtown development before builders would take more of an interest in the block. It turns out it didn't even take twelve months.
According to permits approved by the ZBA for 1216-20 N. 7th St. in late January, there are plans for six new triplexes on the block. Rb3 Thompson LLC bought the lots last summer and are rearranging the lot lines to create additional density. The zoning notice mentions turning four lots into six, so we wonder whether the additional lot is to the west on Franklin Street. The parcels are oddly zoned commercial and the new project will be strictly residential, which seems appropriate given the character of the block.