blight

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.

Some more progress for West Girard Avenue

We've had our eye on 2835-37 W. Girard Ave. for many years now, and our vigilance has finally been rewarded. We first brought this property to your attention about four years ago, noting that it had been damaged in a fire a few years prior and had sat vacant and blighted ever since. In 2013, we shared the news that the building was listed for sale and hoped that someone would step forward to purchase and renovate the property.

Back in 2013

By the fall of 2014, someone had bought it and we were tickled to report that renovation efforts were getting underway. Plans called for a fourth floor addition, six apartments, and commercial space on the first floor. When we passed by earlier this week, it appeared as though the renovation was complete. The owners opted to create two commercial spaces, and State Rep Donna Bullock recently moved into one of them. You can see, her office was previously located next door.

Just don't ask what's coming next

If it seems like we're coming back to Front Street every week or so, it's because that's exactly what's happening. Last week, we told you about new foundations on the 2000 block which will eventually lead to a new mixed-use building. A couple weeks ago, it was the new Honeygrow HQ coming to the 1600 block. Today, we're moving a bit farther north to tell you about some demolition on the 2200 block.

We actually looked at 2134-36 N. Front St. a few years back, pointing out the friendly graffiti on the front of the vacant and blighted structure. Here, take a look at what we're talking about:

In the past

Okay, it was partially painted over in this image. To be clear, it used to say "Don't trash the street. Don't be a pig." Words to live by. Of course, now the building is looking quite different.

More construction and a big building for sale

The changes on the 1400 block of Germantown Avenue in the last year and a half have been nothing short of astounding. Had you visited this block at the end of 2014, you'd have discovered five vacant buildings, a bunch of vacant lots, and no indication that a boom was on the horizon. Things have changed in a major way.

Been a long time coming

The northwest corner of 20th & Carpenter has been through some serious changes in the last decade. Turning back the clock to 2007, the building at the corner was a vacant mess and 922 S. 20th St. next door was a bodega with a well-deserved reputation for drug dealing. Though some of the activities that took place in the bodega were quite illegal, the building had some terrific bones. 

View of the corner in 2007

As the years passed, things changed, as they're wont to do. The building at the corner got a gut renovation, with two apartments upstairs and a corner store below. A few years ago, the folks who own 19 Degrees at 19th & Christian bought the former bodega next door and had plans to renovate the building and open a pho place on the first floor. Somewhere along the line, the renovation plan was scrapped and they demolished the building instead, excellent bones be damned. The property has sat vacant ever since.

But wait! We passed by the property yesterday and it looks like foundation work is underway. Could pho possibly be far behind?

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