Construction taking place in different phases, demolition too

Over the summer, we directed our gaze to the 1400 block of Germantown Avenue, lamenting its poor state but looking toward an improved future. Though the block is still pretty much a disaster, you can actually see the progress taking place is you pass by today. In general, the block is humming, with several different projects taking place at the same time.

New framing

In June, we told you about a proposed five-home development at 1404 Germantown Ave., which was at that time a vacant lot. Back then, it had been continued by the ZBA. By July, the project got approval. And in the last couple of months, construction began. You can see, two of the five homes are being framed out now. Additional homes will follow.


Up the street, several blighted properties are in the process of being demolished. As these images are a couple of days old, you'd have to imagine that the demo process has gotten even further along at this point. 1428 Germantown Ave., which looks like it's had some work done in recent years, won't be coming down. As for what's next, we couldn't tell you. No permits have gone out for the properties currently being demolished. But their disappearance will improve the block and you'd have to think that something will soon replace them.

Tons of change blocks north of campus

The months keep falling off the calendar and development around Temple has continued to buzz. Derelict buildings have been demolished and replaced with shiny new (often boring) buildings. Lots that sat vacant for decades have turned over. So much construction has happened here of late, people who graduated even five years ago wouldn't even recognize their former neighborhood.

While all of this makes perfect sense in the abstract, we figured we'd give you a visual example of just how much change has come to a random intersection in the area. There's no particular reason we picked 12th & Dauphin, but it certainly illustrates the point. Check out some images of what the area looked like back in 2009, thanks to the brilliance of the Google Maps Time Machine feature.

Block has turned around thanks to PHA auction

A little over three years ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority held a press conference on the 3000 block of Cambridge Street, announcing plans to auction off 400 scattered site properties. Included in that list were five vacant and blighted properties on the block. The press conference set up shop in front of 3020 and 3022 Cambridge St., which were in terrible condition at the time.

Press conference in 2011

Those same homes are looking much better these days. Like many other homes on the block, they've been sold to private developers, renovated, and resold to residents. 

Current view of those homes

A couple of homes on this block could still use some love, but the changes have been incredible in just a few short years. And some more changes are surely on the way. The western end of this block is a dead-end, separated from Fairmount Park by railroad tracks. But the homes end before the end of the block. We spotted zoning notices a couple of weeks ago though, suggesting that the end of the block will soon fill in some.

Not expected but not a huge shock either

Marshall Street between Poplar and Girard was once a bustling commercial corridor, full of shops and pushcarts like the Italian Market. Philaplace gives a lovely telling of the history of this stretch, and explains that a combination of white flight and a redevelopment plan from the 1950s that never came to fruition ultimately sunk most of the Marshall Street businesses. The street never really recovered and it looks pretty bad today. Many of the buildings remaining on the block appear to have residential tenants, but the storefronts are mostly shuttered. And there's not shortage of vacant lots either.

Some older buildings on Marshall Street

But there's something funny happening on the 900 block of Marshall Street. New homes are getting built. Two have risen to date, at 922 and 936 N. Marshall St., one of which has already sold. 936 N. Marshall St. is currently on the market for $550K.

What's gonna happen next?

It was all the way back in the summer of 2011 that we first noticed 1201 S. 21st St., a blighted vacant building that had once been a launderette. In the 1950s, the building looked halfway decent, even if it was only one story tall. But in 2011, it looked like all kinds of crap.

Back in 1954
In the past

Three years ago, a commenter ran into the property owner at the site, and learned about plans to build a two-story addition on top of the existing building. Sometime after the above photo was taken though, the building was partially demolished, leaving only wood framing and an exposed foundation. It sat like this for years, occasionally getting a Stop Work Order posted on the property.

Looked like this for a couple of years

In recent months, we saw a sign on the property advertising its availability for sale. We never called, but we understand the asking price was $120K. Yeesh. According to public record, the same guy who owned the property since 1992 still owns the property, but we wouldn't be surprised if a new owner has stepped in (at a lower price?) and this hasn't yet been reflected in public record. We're guessing that there's a new owner because the property was finally demolished last week.

But we make no promises

The pasty building at 718-724 S. 2nd St. has looked awful for many years. Most recently, Queen Village neighbors hired a lawyer to make sure a new developer who started work on the building this fall without community involvement was doing it safely.

Several weeks ago

For at least the past eight years, neighbors have been staring at a blighted construction site in the middle of a well developed residential strip of Queen Village. We first wondered about the site that includes a section fronting Monroe Street three years ago. Then it was owned Queens Mews South LP, a Brooklyn company that after a long, lengthy complicated community process went belly up, according to Mike Hauptman, Queen Village Neighbors Association zoning chair.

“We could sort of tell it wasn't a great project,” said Hauptman, an architect, about those plans. It involved stringing numerous addresses into one parcel. The building looks like single-family homes, but is really one apartment building with a single entrance. One aspect that concerned neighbors then was that the redevelop, developers planned to go deeper underground than the neighboring homes where they would build extra support, a delicate process known as underpinning. So when the developer went bankrupt and the property sat like a worn tooth, neighbors weren't thrilled for a number of reasons.

An interesting idea to employ ex-convicts

Many neighborhoods in Philadelphia have experienced dramatic improvement of late, but the city still has a remarkable blight problem. Depending on who you ask, we've got somewhere between forty and sixty thousand vacant blighted properties scattered around Philadelphia. Demolition costs for all those properties would easily exceed $500M, even conservatively. A new non-profit has an idea that could offer Philadelphia some help with its blight problem with the added benefit of helping ex-convicts get back to work.

Baltimore Avenue blight

The mission of Philadelphia Community Corps is to deconstruct blighted properties, salvaging as much as possible, using a work force of primarily individuals who were previously incarcerated. This effort has a positive impact in many ways. The impact of removing a blighting influence from a block or neighborhood is self-evident. Broken windows theory suggests that even one vacant property on a block has a disproportionately negative influence. Also, PCC is giving ex-convicts an important chance to reenter the work force when many other possible employers won't. The skills gained from working at PCC could be transferable to the construction business, helping with future prospects as well.

New windows at least

Over a year ago, we directed your attention to the northwest corner of Broad & Jefferson, to a building that's been sitting blighted for as long as we can remember. A vacant building is nothing out of the ordinary in this area per se, but a vacant historic mansion next to Temple's campus is a little more noteworthy.

In the past

In case you don't feel like reading our post from before, the building, known as the Burk Mansion, was built in 1907 as a private residence, served as the home of the Upholsterers International Union for a couple of decades, and was acquired by Temple in 1971. For twenty years, the Temple's School of Social Administration and a daycare were in the building. Then a fire in 1993 caused considerable smoke damage to the building, and it was finally closed down in 1995.

In the last couple of days, a few readers have reached out, sharing the news that the building has been getting a little work done. New windows have filled in the boarded up openings, and there's white curtains in those windows. Check it out.

Duplex coming in its place

Though the Graduate Hospital neighborhood around it has changed dramatically over the years, Robert's Twi-Lite Lounge at 20th & Bainbridge has remained more or less the same. The bar doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's a pretty solid neighborhood dive bar. And as far as we know it's finally settled into a mostly peaceful relationship with near neighbors after some friction in the past.

Twi-light Lounge, blight next door

Next door, you can see there's a vacant and blighted building. It's been on the market for a few years and actually almost sold at some point but the sale fell through. About a year ago though, developers bought it for a whopping $270K. Recently, a reader tipped us off that the building will soon be demolished and replaced with a duplex. We have to think, considering the purchase price, these are gonna be condos. It will take a special kind of buyers that want to live right next door to a bar, but we still imagine that they'll turn up. 

Or are we dreaming?

At the corner of 26th & Poplar, a vacant warehouse cries out for redevelopment. And its cries might just be answered sometime soon.

View from the east

The 12,000 sqft building sits on the border between Brewerytown and Fairmount. To the south is a lovely residential neighborhood. To the north is the rapidly improving West Girard commercial corridor. Next door, unfortunately, is a gas station. But that hasn't stopped developers at other locations in the past.

View from the west

Recently, a reader directed us to a Philadelphia Speaks thread discussing this property, whose owners recently put in for permits to build a couple of roof decks. Our first thought was that the property was owned by the Graveley family, a group that owns several parcels nearby including the recently demolished Old English Tavern. But no, it's owned by Bambrey Associates LLC, a company that purchased the property back in 2002 and is now finally taking an interest in it as the neighborhood to the north continues to progress.