Too often, as West Philly has seen more than its share of new student housing rise over the last several years, developers have skimped on the design side of things, opting for function over form. It's not that the new apartment buildings in the neighborhood are unattractive per se, but looking at many of them in the context of the gorgeous Victorian homes nearby makes them look terribly plain in comparison. And while we generally don't care about uniformity on a block in terms of height or appearance, we're perhaps a little more sensitive on the west side of the Schuylkill, given the elevated architecture on so many blocks.
On the 4200 block of Chester Ave., we were excited to share the news a couple of months ago that a new apartment building would fit in very well with the adjacent twin, and have a compatible look with many other homes on the block. Today, we have another example of home that will purposefully fit in with its neighbor, this time at 33rd & Baring.
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about plans for a new apartment building at 4213 Chester Ave., around the corner from the District 3 Health Center and mere steps from Clark Park. Previously, a West Philly twin stood here, and our initial expectation was for a building with a similar footprint and maybe six apartments.
Prior to demolition
A couple weeks ago
It was a pretty big surprise to us when we learned that the developers were instead building a 26-unit apartment building here. When we learned that the lot size is a staggering 11,500 sqft, it made more sense, but we still had a sinking feeling that the new building would stick out like a sore thumb. Recently, architects from Harman Deutsch reached out and provided us with a rendering of the project to give us an idea of what's in store for this address.
Ignoring the occasional giant building built by the university itself and a handful of other exceptions like the buildings at the old Wanamaker School site, most of the new construction we've seen near Temple has been on a smaller scale. Need a new triplex or quadplex? Walk a block or two from Temple's campus and you'll find 'em by the bushel. But today we look at one of the larger new projects we've seen in the area of late, which will contain dozens of units when it's finished.
View of framing last week
We first told you about the project at 1325 N. 15th St., which is being built by Blackstone Development, back in April when it was literally a hole in the ground. The building, which has been dubbed 'The Greenery,' will contain 64 studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units, along with an underground parking garage. Unlike many student housing projects we've seen in this area, the project isn't cramming as many beds into each unit, offering larger units for students to destroy enjoy. There will also be a first floor courtyard area inside the building which will have planters, small trees, and a seating area. Harman Deutsch did the design work.
Last week, a couple of folks who work at the still shiny JBJ Soul Homes tipped us off about some new construction activity at the northwest corner of 15th & Swain. It took us a little while to get to this Francisville corner, which was a vacant lot for years and often home to some pickup trucks. When we finally visited yesterday, we discovered a new hole in the ground.
In the past
The lots were purchased by developers earlier this year for a combo price of $220K. They've hired Harman Deutsch to design a mixed-use building for the site, making this a by-right build. Plans are for a four-story building with a commercial space on the first floor and an apartment on each floor above. No idea what the commercial tenant will be, though we don't know what kind of retail will be the right play here.
It's been over a year since we checked in on 1221 Mount Vernon St., a former power station turned auto body place with dreams of a residential conversion. We first brought this building to your attention a year prior when it was sitting on the market for a steep $1.8M. Ultimately, the property sold for just shy of $1.4M, and now it's well on its way to being converted into forty apartment units.
Two winters back, we brought the construction of a duplex at the corner of 11th & Wallace to your attention. At the time, we were pleased to see that the long vacant lot was being filled, and lamented the fact that the surrounding lots remained undeveloped. There was also a vacant former bar on the block crying out for demolition or redevelopment.
Recently built on the corner
Passing by over the weekend, we discovered that the duplex is complete, but it looks kinda bad. The stucco bays (which don't look any good the minute they're installed anywhere) look like they're already cracking. Somehow, somebody bought this building for $470K last September. As you can see in the photo above, there's construction going on next door.
For years, we've been talking about Washington Avenue West, hoping for better things than forklifts and building supply warehouses, and dreaming of a more accessible bridge between Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze. And there have certainly been some small improvements, like the opening of NextFab Studios, a crossfit gym, and Kermit's Bake Shoppe. But to us, the real game changer will be residential on Washington Avenue. We're sure it's coming, but where and when have remained open questions. Finally, it seems like we have the answers- and they are 18th & Washington and very soon.
Real estate development doesn't happen overnight. Even the simplest project can take years to come to fruition. And as a project becomes more complicated, the timeline tends to stretch out. Still, the speed at which the medium-sized project at 11th & Mount Vernon has progressed has come as a bit of a surprise to us.
For over a hundred twenty years, Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church proudly stood on the northwest corner of 3rd & Reed. And a year ago, we visited the site as a crew demolished the gorgeous old building, which was coming down in favor of a new twelve-home development dubbed Constitution Court. Though we're generally very much in favor of new construction, we lamented that it was coming, in this case, at the expense of such a great building.
In the past
Shortly after demolition was completed, four foundations were poured and construction was underway on the first two homes. By last fall, two homes had been framed out right at the corner. And then, nothing. Work was completely stalled on the site. The reason, according to Plan Philly, is that the new homes were 22 inches taller than was permitted by the zoning variance the developers received. As a result, L&I shut down the site until the developers could resolve the problem.
You don't necessarily think of Old City as a place where lots of new construction happens. With a name like Old City, new stuff is pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect. But lately, we've seen a noticeable uptick in new construction, in locations both prominent and hidden. Remember, just last week we told you about plans for 250 units in a big building next to the Ben Franklin Bridge. And today, we have news of a much smaller, harder to find project that's now under construction.
In the past
Have you ever tried to drive onto I-95 via Race Street, but somehow ended up still on Front Street? The corner of Front & Quarry is the first intersection you hit when this happens. And it's where a formerly beat-up vacant lot is currently under construction. When we passed by last week, it looked like an elevator tower was being built. Soon, a new five story building will rise here, designed by Harman Deutsch.