blight

If someone's buying it seems likely they'll be developing

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.

Next door to a row of newer homes

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.

Uses will be uninspiring but at least the building is coming back to life

Old City is great. It's where America was born! The architecture is wonderful. The stores are plentiful and adorable. There's like a million coffee shops. First Friday is always a good choice. And on a Saturday night in some establishments, it's like visiting New Jersey without having to pay a toll.

The neighborhood is extremely well established, having gone through a major development push years ago. Of late, we've covered multiple residential developments in the area, with several high-end homes currently under construction and the massive 205 Race project finally on the way we hope. In spite of all the great stuff in the neighborhood though, there's still a number of blighted properties to be found. One of them, thankfully, is on the way out.

Quite an improvement, if you ask us

Generally when we cover development in East Kensington, it's on Coral Street or Amber Street, or perhaps on some of the upper blocks of Frankford Avenue. Today though, we look at the easy-to-miss 2600 block of Martha Street, a block which has seen significant changes in the last few years. Check out this image from 2011 to get a sense of what we're talking about:

Back in 2011

Holy crap, this is terrible. At the corner of Albert Street there's an apparently occupied home, but next door all we see is vacant land and blight. One of the buildings on the block literally looks like Swamp Thing. We visited this block last week and it's a radically different experience.

Recent shot

The home on the corner is all that remains from the previous photo. Next door, at 2615 Martha St., a single family home is under construction. Next to that is another home that was recently built and sold. Moving further down the block are three homes that we think are rentals, owned by the Fishtown Redevelopment Authority. Guessing they're not affiliated with the PRA?

Positive change for a once-neglected corner

Last April, we brought the corner of Sepviva & E. Firth to your attention, noting the early stages of a six-home development. Previously at this corner, there was a City-owned basketball court that was in poor condition, and according to commenters it was rarely used for play and occasionally used for drug dealing. So no loss there.

In the past

We passed by this corner the other day and it seems that the project is done.

Current view
Five homes on Sepviva St.

We can only find the sales of some of the homes on public record, but from the looks of it, most if not all of the homes have found buyers. Architecturally, the row of new homes certainly stands out from the older homes in the neighborhood, and for us they evoke a bit of a Lego feel. Still, those front balconies will surely be a treat once the warmer weather rolls around.

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.

Demolition

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.

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