development opportunity

It won't be a casino, we know that

If you're relatively new to Philadelphia, you probably think of Bart Blatstein as the developer who built the Piazza, or maybe as the businessman who's proposing a casino on the northern end of Center City, or perhaps as the guy who will finally, possibly, theoretically build something on the northeast corner of Broad & Washington. You may not know that he's also the one who developed large tracts on land on the South Philly waterfront, creating the popular if unexciting shopping center pictured below.

Pier 70 shopping center

A little to the north of this suburban-style shopping center is another large parcel once owned by Mr. Blatstein that he will apparently soon own again. According to a story from the Inquirer from a week and a half ago, Blatstein has an agreement to purchase the land along the waterfront that was going to be the site for the Foxwoods Casino. It sits on Columbus Blvd., between Tasker and Reed Streets. And it's gigantic, as you might imagine. Interestingly, it was Blatstein who originally sold the land to the company that intended to open the casino, which clearly did not achieve that objective. It's an odd coincidence that Blatstein may end up with that same license that was revoked from them in 2010.

Cafe plan looks sunk

About two years ago, we shared the exciting news that 2132 Montrose St., a former nuisance property located next to Julian Abele Park, could be replaced by a new mixed-use building with a cafe on the first floor. In the intervening years, the park has undergone an impressive transformation, but the building hasn't changed a bit.

Julian Abele Park

With so much time having passed, it should come as little surprise that this project appears to have fallen through. Yesterday, we spotted a month-old listing for the property, indicating that if something exciting happens here it will come from someone other Ilkur Ugur, the guy who opened Divan Turkish Kitchen on the opposite side of the park before the park even existed. That business was replaced by Sowe, which was replaced the Strip Joint just a few months ago. So on the plus side, the park does have someplace to eat nearby.

Could be a development opportunity

Every few months, we get another email from a reader wondering about 1842 S. 9th St., a mixed-use building on the northwest corner of 9th & Mifflin. This property seems to have apartments on the upper floors and surely had a business on the first floor once upon a time. We couldn't tell you whether the apartments are occupied but we're pretty confident that the retail space lacks a tenant.

The property

This building once must have looked amazing and could one day look great again. The light colored brick provides a very unique look in this or any other neighborhood. The bay still has wonderful details, though it badly needs a paint job. Ditto the cornice. The storefront, with some large new windows, could provide a bright and open look at a retail space. The same folks have owned the property since the late 1980s, so unfortunately it seems unlikely that any change will come as long as they continue to own the place. That being said, change could be coming soon nearby.

Right next door to the former armory

A story in yesterday's Inquirer gave the sad news that Torre Big & Tall would be closing its doors in the coming weeks. According to the article, owner Mark Rosenfeld has been in the business for over three decades. The business has been around for seventy-seven years, and it's been located at its current spot at 1217 S. Broad St. since 1982. Until very recently, the old armory building stood next door, immediately to the south. That structure came down last year and soon a new apartment building will rise in its place.

The building
Armory had been next door

The closing of Torre will be sad for many, including the owner and his family, the employees who will need to find new jobs, and folks who have fond memories of the business. We wonder, once the store shuts down for good, what will happen to the space it inhabited? According to the Inquirer article, the building will either be available for rent or for sale. We, for what it's worth, hope somebody steps forward and purchases the property.

The hits keep on coming

We understand if you're a little sick of hearing about different development opportunities in Pennsport. And we promise, this is the last one for awhile. That is, until we discover the next one. You may recall, in recent weeks we've told you about a relocating auto shop that will likely be converted into housing, a demolished church that will unfortunately be replaced by only two homes, and a warehouse on Front Street that's on the market for too much money. Today, we revisit the block that houses the first two spots we just mentioned, and look at 237 Tasker St., a large warehouse.

It's the one on the left

The property is quite large, with 101' of frontage on both Tasker and Greenwich Streets. The parcel is almost 10K sqft, and the warehouse currently has about 18K sqft of interior squarefootage. It's listed for sale for $1.15M. The listing suggests that the property would be good for food cart storage, contractors, or a day care, but we see residential possibilities.

Could be the site of the next big thing in the neighborhood

As you may already be aware, Northern Liberties was once a neighborhood that hummed with industry. Some of the architecture that remains suggests that history, but relatively few industrial businesses remain in the neighborhood. Recently, the neighborhood lost a stalwart as J.T. Riley Lumber Co. closed its doors at 3rd & Girard. Looking at some old city maps, it's apparent that a lumber mill has made its home at this locations since at least 1895. We have a feeling that another lumber yard won't be replacing the business that closed.

The lumber yard
View on 3rd Street

Signs on the property indicate that it's currently for sale. NAI Geis Realty is handling the listing, which has a list price of $2.7M. While this may seem like a pretty penny, the price is probably pretty appropriate. The parcel has frontage on Girard Ave., 3rd St., and Orianna St., and covers almost 30K sqft. That's a whole lot of land to build a whole lot of homes.

Or maybe not?

Last week, we told you about a probable new development coming to the 200 block of Tasker Street replacing an auto shop. We also covered a missed development opportunity across the street, where only two homes will apparently be rising on an 11K sqft lot. Today, we will speculate about another potential development location in Pennsport, this time on Front Street.

Property is changing hands soon

Last fall, we told you about two new homes under construction on Palethorp Street, just north of Girard. Palethorp, in case you're unfamiliar, is a tiny north-south street just east of 2nd Street, which is lined with homes as you make your way up through South Kensington. At its beginning on Girard, there's a double-wide mixed-use property that was most recently home to a place called the Lodge 215. At some point in the last couple of years the clothing and furniture store closed its doors at 177 W. Girard Ave., and now a corner commercial space on Girard Avenue sits waiting for the next sucker entrepreneur.

Space on the corner
New home up the street

The property has been on the market for over a year, and was originally listed at a price of half a million dollars. That seems high to us and apparently seemed high to everybody else because it's listed as under contract at a list price of $360K. The property has the double-wide commercial space which you can clearly see in the photo, and it also has two bilevel apartments above. One unit is liveable, the other is seemingly unfinished.

Maybe not

You may recall, the other day we told you that Phil's Battery Service was moving from their location on the 200 block of Tasker Street to a new spot deeper in South Philly. We speculated that another large development could soon replace this business, which occupies about 8,000 sqft of land. When we were photographing their soon-to-close location, we noticed fresh demolition across the street.

According to Hidden City, the Greenwich Street Church was originally built in 1866. For over a hundred years, it served a Presbyterian Congregation, and in 1987 it was converted into the Khmer Palelai Buddhist Temple. The monks moved to Southwest Philly, and now their former home is no more.

In the past. Image from Trend.
Just some bricks remain

Seeing the huge vacant lot, we suspected that this site would soon be the next huge residential development to crop up in this neighborhood. With over 11K sqft of space and over 60 feet of frontage on both Tasker and Greenwich Streets, you could easily build ten homes here with parking. Instead, it seems like the plans here are much more modest. Hidden City says that the owners of the property, who are members of the family that own Pat's Steaks, intend to only build two houses here.

A real missed opportunity

Back in January, we showed you some images of the former Saint Rita's school at Broad & Ellsworth as it was being demolished. At the time, we told you that the Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine next door had plans for the site that once contained the school which were coming to fruition after years of stops and starts.

Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine
Future building site

Originally, the plan here was to renovate the old school building and add on another small structure to create the Cascia Center, "a place of healing, reflection, and assistance for all people." Somewhere along the line, the plans changed. The new version of the project involves the school's demolition (check) and the construction of a one-story structure on the corner with a parking lot in the rear. Not that the original plan was the paradigm of good urbanism, but this new one is so much worse.