development opportunity

Odd shape presents a challenge

A reader tipped us off recently about 126-32 Dickinson St., a large Pennsport property that's currently available for sale. Passing by the property, you can see a two-story building and a fenced area on Dickinson Street and you'd never imagine that the property spans over a quarter of an acre.

View on Dickinson

To the west of the property there are older two-story homes. To the east is I-95 and a collection of homes built about ten years ago. One of those homes recently sold for over half a million, giving an indication of what potential developers might consider when penciling out a project next door. The big challenge with this property, and the reason we bring it to you instead of buying it ourselves, is the odd shape of the parcel. The listing provides a drawing that shows what we mean.

Price seems a wee bit high

A reader recently tipped us off about 1931-37 W. Passyunk Ave., a large building around the corner from Nick's Roast Beef. It's possible that they emailed us because they happened upon the listing while looking for who knows what on the internet, and there's a chance they contacted us because they know the owner or the realtor and they're trying to get the property some attention. But in this case, the motivations don't matter to us! Here, check out the property:

Current view

Wow, this thing looks lousy. One would have to think it looked nicer back in the day. But now... yikes. The two-story brownstone next door retains most of its character, even though the first-floor window is boarded up. Both properties are currently listed for sale in a single package, with an asking price of $950K. The current listing indicates that the property has about 3,700 sqft of land, and old listings show that the buildings were once home to a beauty school, a furniture store, and a catering hall upstairs. But it's the rendering that really makes the listing pop.

Amazing rendering

This rendering is just so confusing.

A finger licking good development opportunity?

Okay, raise your hand if you can remember back to when there was a KFC on the southeast corner of Broad & Bainbridge. We confess, we only vaguely remember those days, not so much because we weren't around, but more likely because the one-story building that once housed the business has been vacant for about a decade. One would think, given the location, that some other business would have taken over here in the interim but that hasn't been the case. We can see in an old listing, the space was available for lease a few years back for $12K/month, not including associated taxes and insurance. So maybe that's why it has continued to sit empty.

Southeast corner of Broad & Bainbridge

You'll notice in the photo above, there's now a sign on the property indicating that it's for sale. It's not so often that a corner property on South Broad Street so close to downtown becomes available, so it was with some excitement that we reached out to MPN Realty, the brokers for the property, for some details. They told us that the property is available for $5.2M. It's got CMX-3 zoning, has three street frontages, and measures just under 9,000 sqft.

Well if a sign says so...

We love a good development opportunity. And whenever a sign asserts such a thing, we feel it's our obligation to check it out and pass it along, unless of course it's so good that we take it ourselves. So, uh, don't let that be a spoiler alert for what follows.

From the 12th & Washington intersection, you can just about make out a 'Development Opportunity' sign to the south. The sign sits on a vacant lot near the corner of 12th & Alter.

View from Washington Avenue
Closer look

The sign isn't very specific. We didn't know whether the opportunity involved a single vacant lot or the entire block. Turns out it's neither.

For those interested, a set of four properties are now available for sale. 1116 S. 12th St. is a vacant lot that's one off the corner of 12th & Alter. 1118 S. 12th St. is the garage next door, but it doesn't include the two additional garage doors you see on the left side of the image above. 1202 and 1204 Alter St. are also part of the package, and are zoned for commercial use despite being residential-sized lots. The total asking price is $835K. As opportunities go, it's got pluses and minuses.

Honestly we don't know what would be the right plan for this location

Before the bubble burst on the economy back in 2008, there were a ton of development proposals on the boards. Some of them were eventually built, but many never made it past the planning stages. One such project concerned 709 Penn St., also known as Pier 35 1/2, and came from a company affiliated with some dude currently running for President.

Rendering of the Trump Tower

The Trump Tower would have risen up to 45 stories and was to include 225 apartments. Tennis courts, too. And a cigar lounge, of course. But... none of it happened. According to a report from the Inquirer, new owners stepped in earlier this year, paying only $2.4M for the 2+ acre site. This parcel came to our attention recently when we noticed signs on the property advertising that it's for sale. And it can be yours, for the low price of $12.5M!

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.

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