There aren't so many immediately recognizable development opportunities in Center City, but last year, a sign at 251 N. 12th St. really drove the point home.
View of the property from last year
We brought this property to your attention, encouraging anyone and everyone to buy it and build something. The property has some good things going for it, like its location close to the middle of town and the fact that the zoning would allow for a five-story building by right. With a list price of $275K though, it's evident that the property comes with some challenges. First, the property is much slimmer than you might prefer, with a width of only about 12 feet. As we've commented many times in the past, for a single family home you ideally want at least 16' of width, and this becomes even more important with an apartment building. While its location is good in terms of what's close by, it sits right on the Vine Street Expressway which is far from ideal. Finally, the redevelopment of this property will mean the elimination of a pretty great mural.
If you just bought a mansion on Pine Street and are finding yourself a little short on original interior details, the folks at Architectural Antiques Exchange can probably help. Since the late 1970s, this place has specialized in antique pieces that date back as far as the 1700s, just in case your new mansion is in Society Hill. For those looking to class up their home, they specialize in antique mantels, doors, and furniture. And if you're looking for an authentic Irish pub setup in your basement, they've probably got your back in that department as well.
Bar setup from Architectural Antiques Exchange
This company operates out of a storefront at 709-15 N. 2nd St., a location that has gotten increasingly more attractive as the years have rolled along. Back when the business opened, Northern Liberties was in the proto stages of its rebirth and was still dominated by industrial buildings. Even as far back as we can remember, to the late 1990s, there wasn't much active retail in the immediate vicinity aside from the 700 Club and the long gone Liberties Bar.
The Market East neighborhood was a hub of commerce in Philadelphia from the late 1800s through the middle of the 20th century, with the Strawbridge & Clothier, Lit Bros., and Gimbels department stores at 8th & Market in the center of it all. By the later part of the 20th century, the department stores were either closed or heading in that direction, the Gallery was an inward looking fortress of a mall, and Market East was a shell of its former self. The Lit Brothers and Strawbridges buildings were preserved and reused, while the Gimbels building was unfortunately torn down in 1980 and turned into a surface parking lot. It's currently owned by the Goldenberg Group (who seem to be coming up regularly on this blog, of late).
Gimbels department store, demoed almost 40 years ago
You're probably well aware of this, but it's still a surface parking lot today.
A reader reached out the other day, giving us the heads up that the properties at 101-109 Ellsworth St. are listed for sale. The list price is $1.2M, and the parcel certainly could represent an interesting development opportunity. Developers have built new homes along the 100 block of Ellsworth Street over the last several years, and around the corner, the 100 block of Alter Street has filled in similarly. The parcel could accommodate 7 new homes, each 17'-wide, though such a project would definitely require a variance from the ZBA. Still, the market has proven that there's demand for new homes in this immediate area, with comps trading around $600K. Plus, Rizzo Rink is right across the street and everyone loves ice skating.
Properties for sale
Rizzo Rink under I-95
There are some immediate problems with this particular opportunity, and another problem may be lurking in the wings. The first problem is the price. We'd say the asking price is on the high side, maybe by a couple hundred thousand dollars. It's possible that some developers are able to build new homes with garages for less than we can, but we don't see the potential profit being worth the risk for this property at the current price.
The Italian Market is one of our favorite spots in town, a rare combination of tourist destination and amazing resource for people that live nearby. Whether you're seeking fresh meats, fresh pasta, mostly fresh produce, aged cheeses, or the best tortillas in the city, the Italian Market has you covered. What are you waiting for, go to the Italian Market right now! Well, don't go if it's after 6pm, there's not much happening over there at night.
Looking down 9th Street
At the end of last year, the Italian Market lost one of its longest tenured businesses, as D'Angelo's Specialty Meats closed its doors after operating at 907-909 S. 9th St. for over a century. It's always a shame to see a family business close its doors, but according to Michael Klein, owner and operator Sonny D'Angelo was just ready to throw in the (surely bloody) towel after working there since he was 17 years old. As he's now 67, we'd say he's put in his time and then some. We'll certainly miss the business though. As the name suggests, D'Angelo's offered meats ranging from typical (beef) to the atypical (elk) to the unexpected (iguana?!?). And they were famous for their sausages, too. Alas, nevermore.
Every now and again, a large piece of prime real estate becomes available in Center City, and all the big developers surely take notice. Such is surely the case with 500-510 S. Broad St., the 40K sqft parcel that's been home to Health Center No. 1 for the last few decades. Earlier today, we received an email informing us about a recently released RFQ from the PIDC, seeking parties interested in purchasing and redeveloping this significant parcel on Avenue of the Arts.
We needed to make a run to the Post Office today and happened upon an unexpected zoning notice at the southwest corner of 27th & Federal. Developers bought the property a little over a year ago, paying a mere $22K for the long vacant parcel, and now they're looking to build a home here. The property is zoned for industrial use, hence the zoning notice, and it seems like a reasonable enough idea to us.
Across the street, the shell at 2701 Federal St. is currently listed for sale for $125K, as is the shell next door. Both of these buildings are quite unique, but for different reasons. 2703 Federal St. has an entirely blank facade, with no windows or doors, so we have no idea how someone is supposed to get inside. 2701 Federal St. has windows and doors, with some kind of odd trim above each window and the front door. It looks a little like an angry cartoon character with a mustache, and we don't believe we've ever made that comparison in all our years of writing about real estate. You don't have to squint too hard to see what we're talking about.
A reader reached out last week, wondering about the opportunity represented by a large property listed for sale in the Grays Ferry neighborhood. 2844 Tasker St. is indeed sizable, with a 61' depth and running 280' along Dover Street. The 17K+ sqft lot is listed for sale for $900K and relatively little creativity a developer could fit 16 or 17 new homes on this parcel. But would someone choose to take this approach?
View at Dover & Tasker
View from the south
For a few reasons, we'd say "probably not, at least not now." Sure, we're seen a smattering of new projects scattered around Grays Ferry over the last few years, but most of those projects have been in the northeastern corner of the neighborhood, close to Point Breeze. This property is squarely in the middle of the neighborhood, surrounded by a mix of older homes and just a block away from the PHA Tasker Homes. This isn't to say that developers don't build near PHA, it actually happens pretty regularly. We just don't see the demand for market rate development in this section of the neighborhood at this time. And it may be quite some time before we do, if it ever even happens.
As Walnut Street has become too expensive for many retailers, the western side of Chestnut Street has experienced a resurgence of late, as new stores have breathed life into the corridor. With all the additional commerce, we've been reminded on multiple occasions that Chestnut Street has a great stock of older buildings, many of which have a new shine thanks to higher end retail tenants. There are still some stinker buildings on Chestnut Street though, but thankfully a recent construction effort is refreshing one of the worst.
We're pretty sure 1709-17 Chestnut St. was built in the 1970s, perhaps just before the ill fated urban planning experiment called the Chestnut Street Transitway closed much of Chestnut Street to cars for about twenty-five years. As the corridor languished, this building fit right in. As the corridor has recovered over the last decade and a half, it has felt more and more out of place. It seems that the owners of the property, Samson Asset Management, have finally gotten that memo, as they are now doing extensive work on the building's facade to bring it into the 21st century.
At the northeast corner of 7th & Morris, developers built a trio of new homes over the last year, replacing a surface parking lot. We told you about the project when construction was just getting started, and if you visit the intersection today you'll notice that the homes are finished. One odd architectural detail, the corner home has a nice sized bay with some hilariously small windows. We get it, the bathrooms have to go somewhere, but it seems like a missed opportunity to add natural light to the home with two frontages.