blight

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.

As it has for many years

Nobody would argue the point that Delancey Street in Center City is one of Philadelphia's ritziest addresses, which makes the perpetual blight at the corner of 18th & Delancey all the more striking. We first brought 325 S. 18th St. to your attention almost five years ago, but we've had our eye on the property for over a decade. At one point, we even dreamt of buying the property at sheriff's sale, since it was tax delinquent to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars (but not anymore). We were deeply depressed to see that someone had apparently purchased the property for $150K back in 2008, but according to a 2013 story from Inga Saffron that was a bogus deed transfer and the building has been in the hands of a woman named Teresa Isabella since the 1970s. And Ms. Isabella has been a remarkably awful property owner for as long as many neighbors can remember.

In 2012, we were hopeful that the property was finally getting fixed up. But alas, passing by earlier this week, we saw a building that still looks terrible.

And it'll only get better

Does anyone out there remember what the 1000 block of S. 17th Street (that's 17th Street just below Carpenter) looked like ten years ago? We do, but for those that weren't paying attention, here's a look thanks to the magic of the Google Maps Time Machine function.

Looking down 17th St. back in 2007

So yeah, that's pretty terrible. This block had exactly two occupied buildings, four vacant and blighted structures, and a whole mess of vacant land. Within a year or two, the vacant buildings got demoed, which made the block much less creepy but added to the number of vacant lots on the block.

So we were understandably excited back in 2011 when plans for Carpenter Square first surfaced and we learned that the eastern side of this block would be fully developed. We've tracked the construction of this project over the years, through two phases of residential construction and finally a mixed-use building at the corner of 17th & Carpenter. That building, and the courtyard in front of it, now look to be ready for action and word has it that a couple of businesses are currently in the mix for the space.

But we're not sure who owns the property

The Old English Tavern sat vacant and blighted at the corner of Taney & Poplar for many years, tempting people like us that constantly wonder about redevelopment possibilities and torturing neighbors with its deteriorating condition. The building was in poor condition, but it did have an amazing sign.

Several years ago
This sign surely ended up in a dump

About two years ago, the building was demolished, which surely came as a relief to everyone in the neighborhood. Since then, the lot has sat vacant.

Seems like a nice plan, but community process an unknown

Much to the relief of near neighbors, the blighted buildings at the southwest corner of 24th & Wharton were demolished a few months ago. The buildings actually had some amazing history, housing a doctor’s office, a rooming house/apartment building, a beer distributor, a restaurant called Reno’s Café, and a community center over the years. Most recently, a sign for Barrett Education Center hung outside, though the building was in deplorable condition and appeared vacant. While the organization may have done some wonderful things in the community over the years, the now defunct non-profit may have been involved in some tax shenanigans toward the end.

In the past

Developers purchased the property at the end of last year, and now it looks like this:

Current view

Much better, right? When we look at this parcel, our first instinct is a six-home project, but the developers want to go in a different direction. They're proposing a three-story mixed-use building with twelve 2-bedroom apartment units and a retail space on the ground floor. We're all for the inclusion of some neighborhood retail at this location, especially considering that it's right across the street from a large neighborhood green space.

Technically it's on Hall Street

Traveling up 5th Street on a lovely day last week, some construction caught our eye on 5th Street, about half a block south of the Queen's Walk project. The work was particularly notable because it was taking place well beyond the street, with the foundation looking like a bit of an island with no street frontage. Doing a little digging, we of course realized that wasn't actually the case.

Unexpected construction
A better view

The address of this property is 934 S. 5th St., and it actually has frontage on both 5th Street and tiny Hall Street. The foundation you see in the photos above will eventually be home to a 9-unit apartment building. We're pretty sure that the developers combined multiple lots, creating a large but oddly shaped parcel. Here, check it out:

Not your standard lot

From what we can tell, this property has been vacant for some time, though the Google Time Machine function shows us a blighted building here back in 2007 which was gone by 2009.

Seriously, we don't know

A couple years back, we told you about a blighted former auto repair shop at 1200 Spring Garden St. and wondered whether it could get redeveloped at some point in the near future. Oh, for a detailed history of this property from the profound and profane GroJLart, click here (RIP City Paper). To recount some recent history, investors bought the property back in 2008 for a little over $1M, shuttered the auto shop, put a chain link fence up around the property, and proceeded to collect beaucoup bucks from four billboards while the property sat otherwise unused and overgrown. The surrounding neighborhood has been on an upward trajectory since then, but this property has looked worse every year.

We passed by earlier this week though, and spied a bunch of building materials on the property. We're talking stacks of 2x4s and plywood and a huge pile of sand. Check it out.

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