While the commute from Center City is further than we'd like, the neighborhoods of northwest Philly appeal to our more scenic and geographically diverse sensibilities. The Wissahickon Valley bisects this section of the city and we've spent some time on the western half in East Falls, Roxborough, and Manayunk. We've spent very little time covering the eastern half, which is made up neighborhoods of historic German Township (which included present-day neighborhood, Germantown). In the past decade or so, this area has seen a slow increase in housing investment. Whether it’s simply market conditions, or it’s the purposeful efforts of developers involved with Jumpstart Germantown, Mt. Airy and Germantown, especially the western halves of both, are seeing some pockets of construction activity. While driving along Germantown Ave recently, we noticed an interesting mixed-use building going up at 6765 Germantown Ave.
Current view of the property
From our initial glance, this building looked like entirely new construction, but after looking at the permits, we found out it was classified as an “alteration” and that the second two stories were simply added on to an existing structure. A streetview from Google gives a clear view of the before and after of this project.
Westrum Development was a pioneer in Brewerytown construction, building the Brewerytown Square project a little over a decade ago on a block-sized parcel that had been sitting vacant for decades. For years after, Brewerytown Square was on something of an island, surrounded by tons of vacancy. Since the market began its recovery, those properties have slowly filled in. A shopping center with a supermarket appeared to the south. The Fairmount @ Brewerytown project renovated an old warehouse across the street into apartments and retail. And Westrum doubled down on the neighborhood with the 31 Brewerytown project on the 3000 and 3100 blocks of Thompson Street, adding over a hundred new units to the neighborhood. Now Westrum is set to, uh, triple down on the neighborhood, to coin a phrase.
One of our first predictions for 2017 was that North Broad Street would take a major step forward this year, and it didn't even take two weeks for news to emerge that supports this expectation. Hey, when you're good, you're good.
Roughly three years ago, we considered the case of 1401 S. Columbus Blvd., wondering how the site would be redeveloped after plans for a casino were officially 86-ed. Two years later, we confirmed that Tower Investments had purchased the property and Bart Blatstein was considering a plan for a shopping center, some apartment buildings, and a bunch of townhomes and stacked condos on the waterfront. If you pass by this address today though, you'll see that nothing has actually changed.
View of the site
Here's a look at the plan that we published last year, which calls out a Wawa gas station and an Aldi supermarket. We got a number of comments on the project, with some people generally in favor of the plan, and a greater number of people disappointed with the proposal.
Developers bought this property about half a year ago, paying $2.4M for the privilege. At that price, you'd have to think that something significant would be coming here, and you'd be entirely correct. The developers are planning a five-story, 72 unit apartment building for this site with 10 parking spots and a small fresh food market on the first floor. The project is by-right, but since it will mean the creation of over 50 new units, it has to go through the CDR process. It's on the agenda for January 10th.
Over the summer, we told you that the former home of Joy Chinese Restaurant at 723 N. 19th St. had been listed for sale and then gone under agreement in less than two weeks. At the time, we wondered about the future of this little building, which we suspected was once home to a hot dog stand. The location is fantastic, just a block off Fairmount Avenue and close to many of the residential projects that have brought hordes of new neighbors to Francisville over the last number of years.
A diamond shaped property and commercial zoning, however, made us wonder exactly what kind of project might happen here. We figured on two possibilities, either a mixed-use building with ground floor retail and a couple of apartments above, or a purely residential project with either one or two units. It turns out, the developers that bought the building are opting for the former. Contrary to our expectations, it appears that the project is happening by right.
At the time, we traced the changes for the project over the course of the last year, detailing its evolution as SOSNA and near neighbors met repeatedly with the developer to hammer out a plan that would work well enough for everyone. The final plan includes a five-story mixed-use building at the corner of 25th & Washington with 64 apartments and a large retail space on the first floor, a pair of duplexes on Grays Ferry Avenue, and 17 townhomes in the middle of the property. The developers have named the project Graduate Square- check out these renderings, with credit to PZS Architects for the design work.
In Brewerytown, development has been a bit of a slow burn over the last few years, though of late the neighborhood has seen a burst of activity. And there are several significant projects in the pipeline for 2017, so perhaps Brewerytown is picking up some serious momentum. Like the neighborhood, it's been slow and steady for West Girard Avenue, with some new businesses now on the horizon for the corridor. Could this be a sign of things to come for the corridor in the coming year?
Just a few months ago
Over the summer, we shared the news that MM Partners had purchased the building at 2511 W. Girard Ave. which had been home to a liquor store for many years. That store closed when a new location opened in 31st Street shopping center, next to the Aldi. We told you that the developers would be making improvements to the facade and maintaining the building as a purely commercial space, and you can see that the building already looks much better than it did before.
A couple of readers emailed us this week, giving us the heads up that developers have purchased the property at 1300 S. Front St., a 35K sqft parcel that had been home to the Freda Meats for as long as we can remember. The property is massive, taking up over 90% of the block bounded by Front, Howard, Wharton, and Reed Streets, and it's all warehouse space, from what we can tell. As you might imagine, the property is zoned for industrial use, though looking at historical maps it appears that this block was actually residential and commercial a hundred years ago and the warehouses only date back to the middle of the 20th century. Who knew. The developers that bought the property earlier this year (at a surprisingly low price of $1.3M) have a very different use in mind which, in a way, hearkens back to the block's past.
News flash, Ridge Avenue is changing. Okay, this isn't as much a news flash as it is a reminder of the drum we've been beating for several years. But just because it's old news doesn't mean it's irrelevant or not worth mentioning regularly. After all, some blocks on Ridge have been totally transformed. Take, for example, the north side of 1600 block. As recently as 2011, there was one lonely building on this block, stretching from Parrish to Ogden Street.
In the past
It's quite a different scene today. We last checked in on this block a little over a year ago, when a new mixed-use building was approaching the finish line at 1523 Ridge Ave. and another building was just getting started next door. Visiting the block today, we see that the latter building is finished or very close to done, another building has appeared on the eastern side of the block, and another project should soon rise in between. Oh and by the way, the lone building on the block from a few years back is now gone. Check it out.