harman deutsch

One year later

In a matter of terrifying coincidence, it's been exactly one year since we first told you about plans for development at 1110-14 South St., which has for years been a surface parking lot next to an unattractive mural. For the bulk of the last year, nothing much has happened on this site, with cars continuing to park there and the mural continuing to be ugly. But over the past few weeks, anyone that tried to park here would have a big problem on their hands. Because they'd find themselves at the bottom of a pit.

View from the west
The new hole. The same terrible mural.

In case you don't remember, this will soon be the site of two new mixed-use buildings. 1110-12 will have six residential units, while 1114 will have five apartments. Both will have commercial spaces on the first floor, though none of the commercial space has been spoken for as of yet. The design, which comes from Harman Deutsch, is relatively innocuous, and will blend in pretty well with its surroundings despite the fact that it will be taller than the neighboring buildings.

Wish the rest looked more like it

About thirty years ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority tore down all the homes on the western side of 19th Street just north of Fairmount Avenue, and built a collection of less-than-attractive one-story buildings with front yards. The affordable housing units had deed restrictions which prevented their sale to individuals who didn't meet certain income thresholds, but those restrictions expired after a couple of decades. Now, with the explosion of development in Francisville, many folks who bought these homes back in the day have an opportunity for a tremendous windfall.

We covered an example of this a couple of years ago, when an older home was demolished and replaced with a new three-story duplex. This created some controversy in the neighborhood, with some neighbors concerned about gentrification and others upset that the new building disrupted the flow of the block. The building does indeed stick out, both in terms of height and depth, as you can see below.

First duplex on the block

Last fall, we told you about plans for a second duplex on the block. At that point, we speculated that the design would be the same as the previous duplex. We were, it seems, mistaken.

Unsurprisingly near other projects

A couple of months ago, we brought a new project on the northeast corner of 15th & Master to your attention. At that point, it was framed to three stories. Checking back the other day, it's been fully framed to four stories, and brickwork is getting started. When it's done, it will contain ten apartments and three parking spots.

Taller than last time

Looking to the south, down 15th Street, you can see additional projects in the works. But there's one that really catches the eye.

Will be a big improvement

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.

Will blend in, sort of

A little over a year ago, we first told you about plans to build a new structure at 1910 Spring Garden St., where a building collapsed back in 2005. When we checked in on the site in the fall, the first floor had been framed out. Passing by recently at the urging of a reader, we spotted a building that's been fully framed out. The building that once stood here was four stories tall and blended in perfectly with the homes to the west. The new structure will be taller, rising six stories, and will do its best to fit in with its surroundings to the east.

Some neighbors don't seem thrilled

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.

They may not look like their neighbors but does it matter?

For years, a triplex-wide lot curiously sat vacant on 18th Street, just half a block from Washington Avenue. When developer Vitaly Paluchenko presented plans for three triplexes at 1021-25 S. 18th St. last year, we mostly wondered what took so long. We eventually realized that it took so long because City agencies owned the lots for many years. Go figure.

In the past

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.

Current view

Do the homes stick out some? Sure. Is that a bad thing? We think not. What do you say?

New Non-Lofts in the Loft District

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.

It's Coming Along

On Baltimore Avenue in Cedar Park, a new four-story building at 4812 Baltimore Ave. now under construction shows how in one spot the elegant architectural past is meeting the less detailed aesthetic of modern era development.

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.

Doctor J is unimpressed

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.