Fleisher Art Memorial is one of Philadelphia's hidden treasures, tucked away in a former church on the 700 block of Catharine Street. For those unfamiliar with this fabulous institution, Fleisher is one of the oldest non-profit community art schools in America and holds free and low cost classes and workshops for children and adults. In addition, they have a exhibitions and events throughout the year, attracting thousands of visitors to their sleepy Bella Vista block.
It seems like just yesterday that we first called your attention to 538 Federal St., a building that was constructed about a hundred years ago as a substation for the Philadelphia Electric Company (we call it PECO today). For the sake of nostalgia and as evidence of its former use, here's an old image of the building:
Back in 1962
Alas, it was over five years ago that we noticed some interior demolition here and had some high hopes that the building would get renovated and reused. At the time, we gave you the lowdown that PECO had sold the building in 1998 and that the owners lollygagged for a decade before taking a plan to the ZBA to convert the 13K sqft building into 16 apartments. That plan was ultimately withdrawn, and then in 2012 it looked like they'd be moving forward with a plan for 11 units instead. While we were perhaps a little disappointed about the lowered unit count, we were still pleased to hear that the building would be renovated and reused, not demolished and replaced by something less architecturally satisfying.
A reader emailed us the other day, wondering about zoning notices they'd spied on the 1700 block of Brandywine Street. We were excited to hear about this, as the north side of this block is dominated by a large surface parking lot and is zoned for multi-family use, so we had high hopes for a significant upgrade. Doing just about a minute of research though, out hopes were quickly dashed.
Slightly faded zoning notice at lot at 1709 Brandywine St.
Existing parking lot
The parking lot is pretty sizable
Unfortunately, the zoning notices are simply for the relocation of lot lines to expand the existing surface parking lot, which is currently used by the Carpenters Union on the 1800 block of Spring Garden Street. The ZBA granted the variance over the summer, by the way. The union bought the property back in 2014, though the eastern section was seemingly owned by developers at one point. As far as we can tell, these lots have pretty much been sitting empty forever, since they were once the enormous rear yards of mansions on Green Street. And it seems they'll continue to sit "empty" for the foreseeable future. This is a bit of a bummer, as this is a prime location for redevelopment. Ah well, we suspect the neighborhood will survive.
We took advantage of the amazing weather on Saturday and visited the Christmas Village on a preview day, and you know we knocked down a waffle within minutes of our arrival. And somehow, we refrained from purchasing anything else. Next time perhaps we won't be so lucky. Afterward, trying to spend as much time outside as possible, we took the long way home, and happened upon a 'For Sale' sign from Precision Realty Group at the corner of 15th & Cherry.
Raise your hand if you've walked or driven past McGarry's at 2nd & Wood a hundred times over the years and assumed it was an Irish pub despite the signage clearly showing that it's a jewelry store. Uh, that's us raising our hand too. So yeah, McGarry's is a jewelry store and they've been doing their thing since 1854. And now, according to a sign on their storefront, they're moving out of their Old City location. We called them yesterday and they told us that they're consolidating their operations to their Collingswood store, which opened a few years back.
So what's next for this location? It appears that the owner of the store owns the bricks and we'd wager that they're fixing to sell the property to the developers that built the Baldwin Luxury Townhomes immediately to the south. After all, much of this project has gone up on land that was previously the McGarry's Parking lot and with a couple of the homes already selling for almost $1.5M, it's a no brainer to build a couple more. If you're interested, one of these homes is currently listed for sale, for $1.45M.
We lived around the corner from Pat's and Geno's about a decade ago, and occasionally found ourselves on the 700 block of Latona Street.
700 block of Latona Street
Every time we walked that block, we wondered about the unusual 706-724 Latona St., a property we jokingly referred to as "the compound." It's like nothing you'll see anywhere else in town, with a mere three homes and a staggering amount of open space behind a metal gate. A zen garden takes up about half of the property, and it includes an actual koi pond, with fish swimming around having a grand old time. The rest of the space is paved, providing easy parking for the residents.
We don't usually call out individual properties listed for sale, but every now and then a particularly special one comes on the market and we feel like we'd be remiss if we didn't bring it to your attention. Such is the case with 1221 Pine St., a historic home in the Washington Square West neighborhood that's now on the market for $550K.
View of the home
According to the listing, the home was built by by Joseph & Eliza Shoemaker, Jr. in 1829, with the first floor originally functioning as a drug store. According to the Historical Commission, the architecture of the building perfectly represents the period in which it was built. Though the exterior of the building is in pretty shabby condition, it appears to be mostly intact and it probably strongly resembles its original state.
The listing has many photos that show the interior of the house, which has a number of seemingly original details but still looks like it will need a total rehab. The current owner, who bought the property in 1985 for $50K (!) seems to have done some renovation work over the years, but looking at the photos we can't be sure that anybody has been living there lately. The building has about 3,000 sqft inside, with three large rooms on each of the first three floors. The top floor has another large room with roof deck access. At this time, per the listing, there's only one working half bath. Like we said, the place needs some serious work.
When we last visited the 2300 block of Federal Street a few years back, we told you about some renovation activity on the south side of the block, close to 23rd Street. In the time since then, some of that work progressed to a logical conclusion, while other work sadly stalled out. It seems likely though, that any work that's now interrupted will eventually get finished. Such is the nature of development in Point Breeze these days.
South side of the 2300 block
At the time of our last visit, we also drew your attention to a former church on the northwest corner of the intersection. At the time, 1144 S. 23rd St. was seemingly sitting vacant, with L&I sealing the side door after a slew of violations. When we passed by the property over the weekend, the building was clearly getting some work done, so we figured we'd look into the situation.
We know we haven't checked in on Front Street in the last month or two, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still seeing its share of development action. Today, we look at some likely redevelopment at 1523 N. Front St., a building that we told you about two years ago when it was listed for sale for $2.1M along with a collection of nearby lots. This building was originally constructed around 1850 as the Second Associate Presbyterian Church, according to Hidden City, but it's been used as a warehouse for James Scollon's Sons Building Construction & Repair since the 1960s. And it could have been yours, had you been willing to pony up some coin!
Would you be able to find Leland Street on a map? We'll give you a hint, it's in Francisville. Give up? We don't blame you.
Leland Street runs for just over a block in Francisville, starting at Wylie Street and ending forever at Ginnodo Street. According to public record, Leland Street has only 27 legal addresses. Amazingly (though it's not so amazing given the neighborhood), one of those properties will soon get redeveloped. Some advance warning, this post might get a little confusing but this map should prove handy to maintain your bearings. Sorry to do this to you on the afternoon before a holiday weekend.
907 Leland St.
In the map image, we've highlighted 907 Leland St., the property that's going to be redeveloped. The developers are looking to build a five-unit building on this lot with parking in the back and will go before the ZBA later this month. Interestingly, the parking will be accessed via the drive-aisle used by the row of newer homes next door even though that property was (we think) developed by someone else. This project has been continued several times and we're not sure why- it seems like a reasonable enough plan for this location.