blight

All the old homes look alike

As Brewerytown hit incredibly hard times over the last few decades, many blocks in the neighborhood fell into serious disrepair, with several experiencing wholesale demolition of vacant properties in the interest of public safety and blight removal. The 1200 block of N. Etting St. is an excellent example of this phenomenon, though it's finally seeing some new development after years of vacancy. Some blocks, though, have remained amazingly intact, like the 2900 block of W. Flora Street.

Looking west on Flora St.

This block is not only impressive for maintaining almost all of its original housing stock, but also because the homes on both sides of the street were seemingly designed by the same individual, as they all feature similar architectural details. One exception is the three story double-wide Humble Tabernacle of Love church in the middle of the block, which possesses some unique architectural features (sweet cornice!) and rises a story above all the other structures on the block. Incidentally, there's a new home under construction next door. That property, 2923 W. Flora St. was previously a two story home that matched its neighbors but had clearly been sitting vacant for many years.

Despite its location two blocks from Temple's campus

It isn't news that the neighborhood surrounding Temple University has seen an explosion of growth over the last few years. It seems like nary a month goes by that we don't have some news of a triplex here or a twenty-seven-unit project there. With all the construction in the area, you'd think that there's hardly any vacant land remaining and all of the blight has been renovated or replaced by now. And you'd be entirely wrong! Development has transformed many blocks near Temple, but some are still in pretty rough shape. Take, for instance, the 1500 block of Willington Street, which is only about two blocks away from campus.

Looking up the block

We were first drawn to this block by the vacant building right on the northwest corner of Willington & Jefferson. It's got amazing bones but it's in terrible condition. A sign on the facade advertises an auction for the property which happened in 2014. On the plus side, the buyers at that auction were Union Housing Developers who should eventually renovate the structure into affordable housing. On the minus side, the building looks like this more than two years after they bought it:

Even more development on Jasper Street

Remember just last week, when we told you about plans for six new homes at the corner where Jasper hits E. Cumberland Street? Somehow, when we were over there snapping pictures of the future development site and current overgrown lot, we totally missed the fact that there's a construction fence less than a block away at the large and seemingly vacant former mill building at 1821-45 E. Hagert St.

Fence surrounds part of the building
It's a huge building in poor condition

According to the Fishtown Star, the building has been around since 1882 and was originally used as the Albion Carpet Mill. Looking at some historic maps, we see that a company called Wimsel did business here in the 20th century, operating an ornament manufacturing company. Most recently, there was a tropical fish business in the basement- it's probably for the best that an aquatic business was here, as we have to imagine the basement's been getting pretty with every rainfall for quite some time. But not for long!

Homes will probably get demolished

We were traveling across town the other day and spied some orange notices posted on a number of buildings just to the north of 9th & Jefferson. We were pretty surprised to see zoning notices at this location, so a closer look was in order.

Orange posters on blighted buildings

Upon further examination, we realized that these posters were not zoning notices, but were instead violations notices from L&I. With so many colors in the rainbow, you'd think that two of the City departments that post notices on buildings would be able to pick different colors for their posters, but it seems this wasn't meant to be. Though these notices don't indicate an upcoming development project, they could lead to a change in the status quo, assuming the City determines the buildings are dangerous and must be torn down.

The southernmost property, 1515 N. 9th St., is a rental property that's actually in decent condition, having been purchased and rehabbed a couple years ago. The four homes next door were owned by PHA for a number of years, selling to an LLC called Teach Solais back in 2012. So it was PHA that allowed the buildings to fall into disrepair, but the current owners have seemingly done nothing about them in the last four years. In case you're wondering, the large lot to the south is owned by the City.

City owned vacant lot to the south

And the western side of the block is train tracks.

Buildings have been sitting vacant for years

Back in the day, the Wilson & Sons carpet binding factory covered a large parcel just south of Cambridge Street, between Orianna and 4th Streets. Some time after the factory shut down, the rear portion on Orianna Street was demolished and just a few years ago, developers built a row of homes. These homes were nice enough, but the people living there had to deal with the ghost of the old factory in their backyards. But that's finally changing.

Newer homes on Orianna Street with old factory behind them
Closer look

What's left of the old Wilson & Sons building is actually quite large, with frontage on both Cambridge and 4th Streets. Sadly, it's been sitting vacant for many years, a reminder of the neighborhood's industrial past and an indication that the neighborhood still isn't finished growing despite an incredible number of projects in the last few years. Back in 2014, developers came before the community with a plan for 28 units in the building and another new-construction five-unit building, but that plan clearly went nowhere. A Plan Philly story from back then shows that the NLNA pushed back because of a lack of parking in the proposal.

Passing by earlier this week though, we see that this property is an active construction site.

Makes us wonder when stores will open underneath

When you cross the Delaware River on the Ben Franklin Bridge, one of the first exits takes you down 8th Street through the edge of Chinatown. Since the 1960s, a large parking garage has spanned 8th Street between Arch and Filbert Street and it's pretty much looked terrible since the day it opened. Here, take a look:

View in the past

We learned a couple of years ago that the PPA, which by the way owns the garage, was planning to renovate the exterior and its dank underbelly and we were hopeful, but appropriately skeptical. We just couldn't wrap our minds around the idea that this garbage building could possibly turn into something attractive. But we've gotta say, with the project seemingly complete since our visit last year, we can see that they actually did a pretty good job. The garage now looks extremely cool thanks to "veils of metal mesh and glass with screening made of glass louvers."

Neighbors will throw a party

We've had an eye on 718-724 S. 2nd St. for several years, first bringing the property to your attention back in the summer of 2011. Though the property has been on our radar for a remarkable five years, it's been a thorn in the sides of its neighbors for half a decade more. This stalled construction site has been a blight on the neighborhood for so long, but it looks like it could soon meet its destiny at last.

Stalled project

A reader tipped us off today that demolition notices have been posted to the property. This is very good news indeed.

If you can find the street, that is

It was just a couple of months ago that we last visited the 1200 block of N. Etting St., a Brewerytown block that's seriously seen some better days. This block might have seen more redevelopment by now, considering its close proximity to improving Girard Avenue corridor, but it's a little hidden, only accessible via the 2700 block of W. Stiles Street. Still, we were encouraged a couple of months ago to see that two new homes had sprung up on this little block, among a sea of vacant lots.

The 1200 block of N. Etting St.
Two new homes on the western side of the block, lacking front stairs

On the eastern side of the blocks, among the overgrown weeds, we spied a couple of zoning notices.

Scaffolding finally came down

We've had an eye on the former Samuel Machinery building at 135 N. 3rd St. for many years, first bringing the property to your attention way back in early 2012 when it was a blighted building with wonderful bones.

In the past

In short, the building has been sitting vacant for over a decade, with work taking place intermittently since 2007 thanks to litigation that was only resolved in 2013. Shortly after the legal stuff was taken care of, scaffolding went up in front of the building, though construction moved very slowly and experienced several stops and starts. Finally, a couple months ago, the developers took down the upper floors of scaffolding, exposing the restored brown stone. Within the last week or so, the rest of the scaffolding came down. And the building looks phenomenal.

Well, mixed news, at worst

The southwest corner of 17th & Christian has been a mess for as long as we can remember. It was over four years ago that we first brought this property to your attention, lamenting its persistently blighted condition and enormous tax delinquency. We urged the owners of the property to sell it off, believing that a decade of poor stewardship indicated that they would never fix up the property. Instead, they installed plexiglass into the window openings to attempt to comply with the City's now-defunct Doors and Windows ordinance.

In the past, before the plexiglass

Over the last few months, we've noticed some construction work taking place at the property. Recently, we spotted new framing for a future fourth floor, giving the best indication to date that the property was coming back online. We assumed, given the history, that new owners had paid a pretty penny for the property and were now pushing to make their investment worthwhile. But... that isn't the case.

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