Old City is one of the more interesting places to live in Philadelphia. The neighborhood has historic buildings, art galleries, upscale apartments, fancy restaurants, quality drinking establishments, horrible drinking establishments, cinemas, waterfront access, theaters, and more. It seems reasonable that with all the things the neighborhood has going for it nary a building would be vacant or blighted. But as we've seen time and time again, it simply isn't the case here. While some long-vacant properties have been fixed up in recent years, others, like the former home of Synapse Cafe have continued to languish. Today, we present 20 S. 3rd St., a building that's looked vacant for years which is now getting renovated.
In the past
We can't say we remember, but it seems that this building was once home to an umbrella store. The sign on the building refers those of us interested in online umbrella shopping to their website, which looks like the mid-1990s. You can see in the photo above that the building didn't look great, with parts of the facade possibly rotting. A year and a half ago a new owner stepped in, paying $300K for the property. As you can see, renovations are now in full swing.
You've probably never set foot on the 1400 block of Montrose Street. It's a skinny block that we're pretty sure can only be accessed from 15th Street but is one-way toward 15th Street. The north side of the block is dominated by a row of Universal Court homes, affordable rental units built by Universal some time back. The south side of the block is a bit more of a hodgepodge, with two and three-story buildings mixed together.
Northern side of the block
South side of the block
On the right side of the photo above, you can see 1434-38 Montrose St., the vacant lot on the block. This parcel has been vacant for at least a decade, and has been overgrown at times and functioned as a community garden at other times. Way back when, it seems there were small homes in the front of the property and small homes in the back of the property and a courtyard in the middle. It reminds us a little of a Bella Vista nook we profiled a few months ago. But, you know, vacant.
At the time, some neighbors objected to the look of the buildings designed by Harman Deutsch, complaining that they didn't fit in with the other homes on the block. Looking at the nearly-finished product, we have to say the project actually looks pretty nice.
Do the homes stick out some? Sure. Is that a bad thing? We think not. What do you say?
It's been many months since our last visit to the 1300 block of Buttonwood, where two projects have been ongoing for most of the year. It's an interesting study on this block at the northern end of Callowhill, where a rehab project sits adjacent to a new construction building.
In the past
For years, 1231-35 Buttonwood St. was a blighted mess. The three properties were boarded up and looked like they should have been condemned. When we last looked, one of the properties had gotten some facade work done, and all had some unresolved violations. Now, it's a different world. Permits have been pulled to turn all three buildings into duplexes, which we suspect will be rentals. It appears as though two of the properties have new fronts, and one old facade has stuck around. Windows have replaced plywood. Cornices have been maintained. This is definitely a rehab job we can get behind.
While members of Cedar Park Neighbors did work with the developers to guide the design to be in tune with the Victorian tone that lines Baltimore Ave., and while developers added some changes like the use of wood instead of metal on the bay windows, and added a kneel wall to the commercial level, the look of the new building so far suggests that it will still stick out some. Whether that is a good thing or otherwise is a matter of opinion. What is certain is that Diversity Realty Ventures purchased the building in June 2012 for $92K at a time when Cedar Park was jumping off with a swing of new businesses coming to Baltimore Ave., like Little Baby's Ice Cream, and plans for multiple new business at 50th & Baltimore.
It was two and a half years ago that we first brought 1244 Ridge Ave. to your attention, which was when we first learned of plans to bring this long-blighted building back from the dead. The building has sat on the triangular patch of land formed by the intersection of 13th Street, Green Street, and Ridge Avenue for over a hundred years, but has looked awful in recent memory. A couple of years back, it looked like this:
As you can imagine, we were cheered over the summer when we noticed that work was finally underway on this building, which despite its status as an eyesore, contained heaps of potential for a very cool rehab. A rendering from Harman Deutsch seemed to indicate that the look of the building would be restored to something that echoed its historic appearance while also looking forward. In the past, the building had a fourth story which the developers were intending to bring back.
Passing by the other day, we saw a building that's still very much a work in progress. But its current appearance left us feeling a little underwhelmed.
In Pennsport, a project consisting of twelve contemporary homes replacing a house of God has progressed a long way since the 120-year-old St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church at 3rd & Reed was demolished several months ago.
In the past
When we passed by this corner the other day, the first two town homes of this project, designed by Harman Deutsch, had been framed out. The project will consist of two rows of six homes separated by a driveway accessed on Reed Street that will allow owners to drive right up to their garages. The homes will feature the usual amenities inside and will attempt to integrate a contemporary look with a traditional look, combining brick and cement board on the facades.
Construction at a former vacant lot in Powelton Village shows how development in University City is beginning to spread block by block. Just down the street from the recently completed 2.0 University Place, a three-story structure has risen at 332 N. 41st St., a block north of Powelton Ave.