development opportunity

Property offers an opportunity, but some challenges too

We always note 'For Sale' signs in our travels around town, but when such a sign is affixed to an attractive old building, it grabs our attention and doesn't let go. Recently, we saw a 'For Sale' sign at 1420-22 E. Susquehanna Ave., and we've been thinking about it ever since.

The building
Closer look

With just a quick glance, you can see that this structure was used for religious purposes. The listing provides greater detail. The building was constructed in 1924 as the Convent for the Holy Name of Jesus Church (so says the cornerstone too). And plenty of the original details, like stained glass windows, woodwork, tin ceilings, and the staircase, remain. It's a double-wide property that goes up to three stories in the rear, and has over 11K sqft of interior space. Also, it goes street-to-street, extending to Hewson Street with possible room for parking for a few cars in the back.

So what will happen to this property? It's hard to say. The list price is $595K, and they haven't found a buyer after two months on the market. At some point though, a buyer will step forward and it will be fascinating to see what they try to do.

Huge lot next door could be involved

A couple weeks ago, we told you about a church on the 1500 block of Cambridge St. that will soon get torn down and replaced by five triplexes. At the same time, we wondered whether this project might result in the renovation of some rougher looking homes on the street.

When we took those photos, we also noticed a demolition notice at 1522-24 W. Girard Ave., a building around the corner. Interestingly the property the building sits on extends all the way back to Cambridge Street. According to an old listing, this property was most recently used for medical offices and a day care.

Demo notice on the building

This building changed hands earlier this year, as did the parking lot next door. The parking lot parcel is even larger than the parcel the building sits on, with about one and a half times the squarefootage.

South Philly restaurant has been vacant for many years

Over the years, we've occasionally passed by the shuttered Par Four restaurant at 2201 Penrose Ave., wondering when and if it would spring back to life. The other day, when we visited Siena Place around the corner, we were again reminded that this place exists, and it seemed like a nice idea to bring the property to everyone's attention. So here you go:

View of the former restaurant
Looking up Penrose Ave.

This business has been closed since at least 2007. We did some digging about the property and discovered that it's been listed for sale a couple times over the years, most recently last year for $1.1M. But there were apparently some issues with back taxes or liens, because it sold last summer at sheriff's sale for $835K. And the new owners are not waiting around to get a new tenant into their building.

Big new building is sitting vacant

It's been a sad tale for the Bottom Dollar on Grays Ferry Avenue.

Two years ago, we found it curious when we heard that Bottom Dollar was building a new market at 3000 Grays Ferry Ave., right across the street from the Grays Ferry Pathmark. The discount supermarket chain was in the midst of a serious expansion campaign throughout Philadelphia, but it still seemed odd to pick a location directly across the street from such an established competitor. The market opened in early 2014 and was shuttered before the end of the year.

Closed Bottom Dollar Foods
Right across the street

But the closing of the Bottom Dollar wasn't because of anything the Pathmark did- all 46 Bottom Dollar locations in the Philadelphia area closed as part of the sale of the company to Aldi. A couple of weeks ago, reports came out that Aldi would be reopening less than half of those locations, including the Brewerytown location but not including the one on Grays Ferry Avenue. Which leaves us with a brand new building with an uncertain future.

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.

A little tax delinquency could get the ball rolling here

A year and a half ago, we visited the intersection of 12th & Spring Garden and noted the vacancy at both the southeast and southwest corners. Today, it's pretty much the same story. On the southwest corner, there's a burned out gas station. On the southeast corner there's a huge vacant triangular parcel that used to be a lumber yard, and before that a brass works. 

Blighted gas station
The big lot

Unfortunately, it seems like it's status quo for the old gas station. As for the lot across the street, times could be changing. The other day, a reader gave us the heads up that the property was recently posted for sheriff's sale. According to the Sheriff's website, the property is on the list for March 17th Tax Collection Sale. This makes sense, because the property owners currently owe almost $95K in property taxes. Looking at the reporting from the Revenue Department though, it seems the owners may be paying down their debt which would either postpone or cancel the sheriff's sale.

At least make 'em an offer

In recent years, South Street West has experienced a major rebirth. New businesses have appeared, as if out of thin air. And vacant lots have disappeared, with mixed-use buildings bringing new commercial spaces and potential customers to the corridor. Even the Royal Theater, South Street West's long vacant jewel, could soon come back to life in dramatic fashion. But the corridor still has some more growing to do and some remaining kinks to work out. 1412 South St. is one such kink, a building that's been obviously vacant for as long as we can remember.

Long vacant property

On one side of the building is a surface parking lot that will surely get redeveloped (at the expense of a sweet mural) at some point in the future. On its other side is a pizza joint, New Tower Pizzeria. Remember, last winter we told you that Govinda's was opening a vegan pizza shop next door to New Tower (to the east), but we haven't seen or heard anything about it since. But we digress. Please note that the vacant building in the photo above has a sale sign on it!

Will it get redeveloped, or will sushi continue to reign?

Around the residential neighborhoods, we generally see buildings that are either two or three stories tall. Then we'll also see some four-story buildings, homes that generally arrived on the scene either a hundred years ago or in the last twenty years. One story buildings, we confess, we don't see so often. We can only think of a handful around town, notably the Twilight Lounge at 20th & Bainbridge and Big Eyes Sushi at 7th & Bainbridge. Surely there are others that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

Big Eyes Sushi in its one-story glory

How did this property come to be? Honestly we have no idea, though we'd imagine that it was once a corner tavern like the Twilight. Or maybe it once had upper floors but they were removed, a la the Snellenberg's building at Market East. We seem to recall, before it was a sushi place, it was a thrift shop. Does anyone else remember this?

Former American Thrift Stores

Last week, a reader directed our attention to the corner of 8th & Wolf, to a building that was home to an American Thrift Store location for many years. Back in the days that major supermarkets were satisfied with smaller spaces and no dedicated parking, it was apparently an Acme. Today, the one-story building looks kinda rough.

Corner of 8th & Wolf

As it sits, the property doesn't seem like much of an opportunity. But the parcel is huge, at just under 15K sqft. If a developer were to take on the property and demolish the building, there would be room for over a dozen new homes. Or a nicely sized apartment building. Sure, we don't see a ton of construction this deep into South Philly, but the size of this lot could entice a developer looking for their next big project.

A block away, at 7th & Wolf, there's a property that's considerably smaller but to our eyes much more interesting.

Tear it down and build a house or make it a loft

We're always on the lookout for interesting development opportunities around town. And while a lone garage on the corner of 7th & Fernon isn't as exciting as, say, the Frankford Chocolate Factory, it could still represent an interesting property for the right person.

The building

Heading to Center City from Souh Philly the other day, we came upon 1613 S. 7th St., whose owners opted for an ominous spray paint sign to deter people from blocking their driveway. The property is 16' wide by 64' deep, and the building currently covers the entire parcel, as you can see above. The block of Fernon Street is all two-story homes, and up 7th Street is a mix of three story homes and a smattering of retail.

Looking up 7th Street

The property is listed for just under $180K at the moment, which seems a little high for a wide open garage in South Philly. A developer could come forward and demolish the garage and build a new home on the corner. The listing suggests that it could also be a fit for artists looking for loft space. Alternately and perhaps least optimally, the space could remain as is and store food trucks or something like that.