Via Bicycle made its home at 606 S. 9th St. for about 20 years, but from the looks of the outside or the inside, you might have guessed they'd been there five times as long. But if you pass by this address today, you'll see that the shop is no longer operating there. Fear not though, Via Bicycle is still with us, just in a new location. Their new space is smaller, but a location at 622 S. Broad St. could result in greater foot and, er, bike traffic.
Former Via Bicycle
You may be wondering what inspired this business to pull up their roots from their longtime retail space. A sign on the building provides some sort of explanation.
The 2000 block of Lombard Street is unlike any other in the city, with the Lombard Swim Club covering about half of the south side and a large parking garage taking up about a third of the north side of the block, and a bunch of homes filling things out. And while we don't imagine that the swim club will close or relocate in our lifetime, the clock could be ticking on the parking garage.
View of the garage
Lombard Swim Club across the street
At the end of last year, we got an email from MPN Realty, advertising that the parking garage at 2031 Lombard St. was available for sale. This seemed like an amazing investment opportunity, as the building sits on a quarter of an acre of land in Rittenhouse, runs street to street, and is zoned for multi-family use. A condo building would fit the bill for this spot, or a row of $1.5M to $2M homes would also make all kinds of sense on this block. After all, we've seen very successful high-end projects appear on the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Lombard Street, so a similar project on this block would seem like a slam dunk.
To state the obvious, Passyunk Avenue is great. It's got a bevy of restaurants, a growing collection of locally owned small businesses, and a general vibe that has made it the commercial corridor du jour for at least the last couple thousand jours. You'd think, given the power of Passyunk Avenue, that we'd be covering a ton of development nearby- but you'd be incorrect. And it's not because of a lack of demand, but a lack of supply.
The neighborhoods around Passyunk Avenue never experienced the same kind of disinvestment as say, Point Breeze or Graduate Hospital, and as a result there simply aren't anywhere near as many development opportunities around the corridor. When one comes along, developers are typically quick to pounce. Take, for example, 1133 Dickinson St., which was sitting blighted until 2012, when developers tore down an old home and built a new one that quickly sold for over $400K.
The property at 2500 Reed St. has been sitting vacant for at least a decade, and while our memory doesn't go back much further for the property, we'd think that it was used for some kind of industrial purpose in a previous life. This makes sense, since it sits right next to the CSX tracks and industrial is quite consistent with most of the other buildings that immediately surround the tracks. Plus, the fact that the 166K sqft parcel is sitting entirely empty would seem to suggest that one or two buildings once stood here, not a collection of homes. Two points for anyone that can remember what used to be here.
But enough about the past, let's talk about the present. Specifically, today we'd like to bring it to your attention that this property isn't sitting entirely vacant anymore. To wit, it's looking much greener these days. We passed by recently and noticed a whole bunch of raised garden beds. And while we don't necessarily regard this with the same energy and enthusiasm that we would a large scale mixed use development, we can still appreciate that the greening of this parcel represents a major step up from its previously vacant state.
South Broad Street between South Street and Washington Avenue is on the rise, though its ascent has been rather slow and uneven. When 777 South Broad arrived on the scene a little less than a decade ago, bringing almost 150 apartments and a number of new retail spaces to the corridor, we were hopeful that we'd see other development crop up in a similar vein. But it's been a dry spell until quite recently, when construction started humming along at Lincoln Square on the northwest corner of Broad & Washington.
As for the rest of this stretch of South Broad, it remains a mix of unimpressive uses, with numerous one-story commercial buildings and a variety of vacant lots. We've had our eye on one of those vacant lots, 740 S. Broad St., for several years, hopeful that a developer would come forward to build something new and exciting.
We've seen development spread from Fishtown through East Kensington in recent years, with the construction generally spreading northward from Amber to Coral, to Emerald, to Jasper Street. Amber Street has been largely redeveloped at this point, but Jasper Street still has a long way to go. And this makes sense, as Amber Street is closer to Fishtown, while Jasper Street is closer to Kensington Avenue. Pretty self explanatory, actually.
So you can imagine our surprise today, as we were heading down Kensington Avenue after chasing down a story in Harrowgate, and we noticed a pair of new looking homes on the 1800 block of E. Oakdale Street, a block that's pretty much the northern tip of the neighborhood. Aside from these two new homes, this block hasn't gotten much love of late, and there are roughly as many vacant lots as there are residences.
As development fills East Kensington and starts to drift over to Port Richmond, it's possible that developers will start getting creative with their acquisitions and look at parcels they wouldn't have considered just a few years ago. We're already seeing it in this part of town, as homes are getting built almost on top of I-95 and apartment buildings are going up under the El, yet people are still buying and renting in spite of these imperfections. This being the case, we believe it's just a matter of time before we see some of the larger properties on Lehigh Avenue turn over in favor of new development. The fact that two such parcels are available could hasten the process.
A little over two years ago, we predicted big things for Forgotten Bottom, expecting a ton of new development for the area. And we're still optimistic that this neighborhood is eventually gonna blossom, even if it hasn't happened just yet. For those unfamiliar with Forgotten Bottom, it's a tiny neighborhood that's located between Grays Ferry Ave., I-76, the Schuylkill River, and some train tracks, and only has housing on the equivalent of two square blocks. The rest of the neighborhood consists of a baseball field (a hidden gem!), a FedEx building, a big parking lot, a bunch of vacant lots, some old warehouses, and the entrance to the Dupont Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail.
With easy access to the University of Pennsylvania, HUP, and CHOP, and especially with the opening of Pennovation Works just to the north of this neighborhood, we assumed that people would start to give Forgotten Bottom a little more attention. And don't forget that a couple years ago, Penn extended their Homeownership Grant Program to include properties in this neighborhood, further encouraging people to move here. And looking to the future, the Dupont Crescent will eventually connect to the rest of the Schuylkill River Trail, which will make this neighborhood even more attractive.
Meandering through the River Wards the other day, we spied a vacant building at 2530 E. Hagert St. that we had never noticed before, even though it's been in poor condition for several years. Something about the property gave us the feeling that developers already had this property in the crosshairs, and we were on the money in that regard. The property traded about a year ago, selling for $95K, and we have to think it won't be long until the owners tear down the blighted building and construct a new single-family home here.
After unsuccessful stints as a real estate agent, a car salesman, and a mall santa, 'ol Gil finally found a business that worked for him, holding down the southwest corner of 11th & McKean for several years with a successful wholesaling business. Many businesses and organizations patronized Gil's Wholesale, getting their fix of candy, ice cream, paper goods, and of course, cigars. A few months ago though, Gil's Wholesale moved its business to Glenolden. Maybe it was parking challenges, or perhaps the lure of lower taxes that led to the move. But what we're left with is clear, a large and currently vacant building.