It was just a couple of weeks ago that we drew your gaze to the 1800 block of E. Huntingdon St., noting a pair of triplexes under construction immediately next door to the Huntingdon El Station. In general, we find it surprising just how much development has happened so close to the El in recent years, but this new construction at Kensington Avenue was truly surprising. Today, we have news of a project in a slightly more predictable location, but with a much larger footprint. Please join us if you will, on the 1900 block of E. Dauphin Street.
A few years ago
This block is capped off by My Philly Pawn, the self proclaimed largest pawn shop in Philadelphia. At the end of the block is a community garden, and just across Emerald Street is Emerald Park. It's like we said, this block is a step up from the 1800 block of E. Huntingdon Street. Still, we wouldn't necessarily expect to see a ton of new construction on this block, but that's exactly what's happening.
Carburetor is one of those words we've probably heard hundreds of times over the years and while we knew it was somehow related to car engines, we confess we had no concept of its function. But we live in the age of information, and thanks to Wikipedia, we now know that a carburetor blends air and fuel for use by an internal combustion engine. We also know that carburetors haven't really been in use for commercial cars since the late 1980s, replaced by fuel injection.
Philadelphia Carburetor and Ignition operated out of 1327 Reed St. since 1963 and while we never patronized this business, we have to think that they did more than carburetors, despite the name. Still, we have to think that business was better in the first few decades than in the last few decades. Earlier this year, the building was listed for sale and got snatched up by a developer in less than two weeks for a price of $465K. The developer is pursuing a plan to demolish the existing two-story commercial building and replace it with a pair of townhomes with parking in the rear. The project came before Passyunk Square Civic Association last month and got a letter of non-opposition, so we have to think it'll get approved at the ZBA.
Access to booze is reorganizing in Brewerytown, and MM Partners is unsurprisingly right in the middle of the action. Remember, last year they purchased 2511 W. Girard Ave., the building that was home for many years to a Fine Wine & Good Spirits location. That space became superfluous when a new state store opened on the other end of the neighborhood, in the Bottom Dollar turned Aldi shopping center at 31st & Girard. MM Partners converted the building into a two story commercial property, with Steelworks Strength and Sound Space as the prominent tenants.
Santoro's Beer Distributor operated for a long time next door at 2517 W. Girard Ave., making for incredibly convenient one-stop shopping for people looking for beer and wine/liquor. At some point recently though, Santoro's closed and MM Partners purchased their double wide property for $650K. A sign posted in the door suggests that an MM Partners project is coming soon.
A reader reached out the other day, giving us the heads up that the properties at 101-109 Ellsworth St. are listed for sale. The list price is $1.2M, and the parcel certainly could represent an interesting development opportunity. Developers have built new homes along the 100 block of Ellsworth Street over the last several years, and around the corner, the 100 block of Alter Street has filled in similarly. The parcel could accommodate 7 new homes, each 17'-wide, though such a project would definitely require a variance from the ZBA. Still, the market has proven that there's demand for new homes in this immediate area, with comps trading around $600K. Plus, Rizzo Rink is right across the street and everyone loves ice skating.
Properties for sale
Rizzo Rink under I-95
There are some immediate problems with this particular opportunity, and another problem may be lurking in the wings. The first problem is the price. We'd say the asking price is on the high side, maybe by a couple hundred thousand dollars. It's possible that some developers are able to build new homes with garages for less than we can, but we don't see the potential profit being worth the risk for this property at the current price.
It was just yesterday that we told you about plans to redevelop the northwest corner of Front & Oxford, a project that would provide a worthwhile companion to Oxford Mills on the southwest corner of the same intersection. This property is currently a collection of warehouses that have been used for industrial purposes for as long as they've been around. Given the changes on Front Street and in South Kensington in general in the last few years, a building with 38 apartments and ground floor retail amazingly makes more sense than warehouses at this point.
Upon seeing our report, the good people at KJO Architecture were kind enough to pass along some renderings, so we can get a sense of what's to come. They also clarified a point we weren't clear on, confirming that the developers will demolish the existing buildings and replace them with something entirely new. Check out these renderings:
Because our office is on Washington Avenue, we have the pleasure of seeing the Frankford Chocolate Factory just about every day. This building, located at 2101 Washington Ave., has been sitting vacant since Frankford Candy's last chocolate rabbit came off the line over a decade ago. A few different development plans came come and gone in the intervening years. Developer Tran Dinh Truong came up with a redevelopment plan in 2009 which got denied by the ZBA. Another effort to redevelop the property, this time in cooperation with architects Campbell Thomas, got approval in 2012. But Truong passed away only a couple months later, and the project didn't move forward without him.
Project rendering from 2012
A court order liquidation Truong's assets put the property on the market back in 2014, and by the end of 2015, new owners had stepped in, paying $8.5M for the property. But earlier this year, we noted that the building was still sitting vacant, and that signs had been posted to the facade, apprising firefighters of the fact. The following image is from back then, but it's still an accurate depiction of what's going on there. And that's to say, nothing.
The Brewerytown boom continues, with 26th Street now getting in on the act. A reader tipped us off about some zoning notices posted at 1214 N. 26th St., a large property that's hit a bit of a rough patch in recent memory. If we turn back the clock just a few years, this property was home to a two story warehouse on its southern side and a one story former industrial building on its northern side, with a vacant space in between. We won't claim that the property was the Garden of Eden or anything, but it was a step up from the present. The two story building collapsed somewhere along the line, and has been hastily repaired. And the one story building is gone.
This building looks awful
Zoning notices to the north
The zoning notice details a plan to tear down everything on the site and build two new buildings. The front building will contain twelve units and twelve parking spaces, while the rear building will contain eight units and eight parking spaces. The notice isn't clear, so it's possible that this project will entail two apartment buildings, or maybe it'll be two rows of townhomes. The townhome approach would seem likelier, just based on the phrasing of the notice.
Earlier this month, we told you about a plan from Campus Apartments to demolish an attractive building at 123 S. 41st St. and build a 98 bed student housing building in its place. And we lamented that the new building wouldn't possibly hold a candle, architecturally, to the Italiante mansion that's been here for over a century. There's now a rendering posted at the property and you'd surely agree that, indeed, the plan for the new doesn't compare with the old.
Historically, most of the residential development from PHA has been... lackluster, if we're being polite. It's typical to see two story unattached buildings with adjacent surface parking, breaking from traditional rowhome architecture. Vinyl siding is a common design element. In PHA developments, it's common for row after row, block after block, to look exactly the same. In short, most PHA properties are obviously owned by PHA, potentially creating a stigma for residents by announcing loud and clear that they're living in low income housing.
To their credit, PHA has been getting better. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is evident at the Norris Apartments at 11th & Norris, where PHA built a collection of new homes back in 2011 and 2012, replacing a residential tower and some unattractive old homes. For this project, PHA hired architects Blackney Hayes, who designed a 51 unit development that looks more like a market rate project than affordable housing.
Norris Apartments, Phase 1
Five years in, these buildings look better than any other PHA project we've seen. And the project has apparently proven successful, as PHA is now following it up with another phase of development across the street. The block bounded by 11th, Norris, Marvine, and Diamond Streets is currently home to a collection of low rise PHA homes that look worn out at best. All of these homes will be demolished as a part of this project.
South Kensington has seen all kinds of development over the last few years, and as we told you earlier this week, there are some pretty significant projects still in the pipeline. Through it all, the former Gretz Brewery at 1524 Germantown Ave. has been sitting vacant and blighted, a reminder of what so much of the neighborhood looked like less than a decade ago. We first wrote about this building years ago, noting that the brewery was founded as Rieger & Gretz Brewing Company in 1881, and stating our belief that the buildings had not been used since the brewery ceased operations in 1960.
Back in the day
By the end of 2012, the City had posted a demolition notice on the building, and we were worried that the entire compound would be torn down. Fortunately and unfortunately, the demo notice only applied to the building at the corner, which was demoed in 2013. Checking in on the property today, we see that aside from the demolition from a few years ago, it pretty much looks the way it did when we first wrote about it. And by that we mean it has amazing bones but looks severely distressed.