mixed-use development

Neighbors seem to have mixed feelings on the subject

It was almost four years ago that we brought the blighted building at 2539 Grays Ferry Ave. to your attention, lamenting its condition and hoping that it would get renovated or demolished sooner than later. A near neighbor first drew our gaze to the property, informing us that the building had been sitting vacant for at least a decade, that the rear wall had partially collapsed, and L&I had declared the building "unsafe." Somehow, the property remained in this condition until just a couple of months ago, when the building was finally torn down.

In the past

Current view

You'll note, there's a zoning notice on the chain link fence surrounding the property, which means that redevelopment is on the horizon. Reading the notice, we see that the proposal calls for a mixed-use building with a grocery store on the first floor and two apartments above. As the property is zoned for single-family use, this triggers several refusals.

Community meeting on Tuesday night

Lou Wolff Auto has made its home at 501 E. Girard Ave., at the corner of Palmer & Girard, since the 1980s. But East Girard has changed dramatically, and a used car dealership just doesn't make much sense on the corridor anymore. It came as no surprise then, at the end of last year, when we learned that Mr. Wolff had sold his property and that the corner parcel would soon get redeveloped. At the time though, we didn't have a clue what to expect in place of the car dealership. And now we do.

Lou Wolff Auto, from a few months ago

Tomorrow, developers will present plans to Fishtown Neighbors Association in a meeting that might turn contentious even though the proposed project is permitted by right. The developers are planning a mixed-use building that will rise four stories and will include 71 apartments, up to 4 retail spaces, and 51 parking spaces with all but 4 of those spaces located in an underground parking garage. The 26K sqft parcel is zoned CMX-2 and the developers are using a couple of zoning bonuses to allow the project to move forward by right. Because over 60% of the roof area will be covered by a green roof, the developers are getting a density bonus. And because one of the retail spaces will be reserved for a fresh foods market, the developers are getting a height bonus.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody

We've been banging the drum for Washington Avenue west of Broad for a long time, liking it so much we even moved our office there. Finally, after years of waiting, the corridor is taking steps in the right direction. Framing is underway at Lincoln Square at Broad & Washington, and this project will eventually create a few hundred apartments and over 100K sqft of retail. Way to the west, at 2501 Washington Ave., there are plans for a mix of homes and apartments, and construction recently started up again after a lull. In between those projects though, at 2300 Washington Ave., is one of our least favorite projects in the city. We're referring, of course, to the Extra Space Storage Facility, which is now getting close to completion. Check it out, in all its crapitude.

Checking in after about a year

About a year ago, we visited the 1500 block of Brown Street and noted that several projects were in the pipeline for the block, though most were not evident to the casual observer at the time. The most obvious project was happening at the northeast corner of 16th & Brown, where developers had just demolished a pair of buildings and had plans to construct a quadplex in their place. It took a little bit of time for the construction process to lurch forward, perhaps due to a permitting issue, but now you can see the new building has been framed out.

New quadplex at 16th & Brown

Moving to the east, when we were last here we noted two relatively new triplexes on the block. 1519 Brown St. was built around 2013, with units selling between $190K and $260K. 1517 Brown St. arrived on the scene in 2016, and those units sold between $220K and $320K. This gives you an idea of just how much the market has grown in Francisville in the last few years. Next door, developers are just starting to frame three more triplexes, where we have to think the units will sell at even higher prices.

Mixed use for a vacant lot

A reader reached out to us the other day, wondering about a new hole in the ground on the 1300 block of Frankford Avenue. This block is one of our favorites in Fishtown, as it's home to La Colombe, Jinxed, and Kensington Quarters, among other businesses. And it's also steps away from the 1400 block (obviously), where there's all kinds of action going on.

Looking at the 1300 block of Frankford

Across from Snap Kitchen1317 Frankford Ave. has been sitting empty for a number of years, though for a long time it was a nicely landscaped, privately owned garden space. We especially appreciated the fishy details on the fence.

A few years ago

Developers bought the property last summer, and the garden space got a little overgrown in the interim. All of that is now in the past, of course, as construction has gotten started.

Some construction is forthcoming

Chain link fence is a very important part of our job. When we're cruising around town looking for stuff to write about, the sight of chain link fence is often a cue that development is brewing. Often, without knowing anything whatsoever about a property, we'll snap a couple of photos of a chain link fence with a plan to later look at the L&I Map to see whether a new project is on the horizon. When we realized that every corner of the 10th & Mount Vernon intersection boasted some chain link fence, we figured we'd have strong chance of discovering something new. And we were correct.

Southwest corner

First, the old news. A couple months ago, we told you that the old warehouse on the southwest corner would be demolished and replaced with five duplexes. We first brought this building to your attention in 2013, noting that it seemed like an attractive development opportunity. Checking in today, you'll note that the building still hasn't been demolished. No doubt though, it'll come down soon enough and construction will start on those duplexes. 

Wow, there's a lot going on here

The west side of the 1400 block of Frankford Avenue is undergoing a major transformation before our eyes. Turn back the clock half a decade and this block was most prominently home to the Bicycle Stable and a large warehouse belonging to the Chalmur Bag Company. Things are rather different today.

Bicycle Stable closed at 1416 Frankford Ave. a little less that two years ago, and when they closed their doors we were worried that a developer would step in and demolish their building. As we told you previously, this building was originally constructed as a stable for police horses and was associated with a long since demolished police station on Front Street. Thankfully, with the news that Cheu Noodle Bar will be opening a new location in the building, we don't have to worry about the former stable meeting a similar fate.

Gym, cell phone store, wedding planners, etc.

The west side of Washington Avenue has changed dramatically over the years, slowly shifting along the industrial spectrum. A hundred years ago, businesses along Washington Avenue were all heavy industrial, with manufacturing mixed with lumber yards mixed with smelting plants. In more recent decades, old warehouses were repurposed and Washington Avenue has become a haven for building supply companies. This has been a boon for contractors, especially as the Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze neighborhoods have experienced so much construction. It's not as great for the people who live in either of those neighborhoods, as nobody likes dodging a forklift just a couple blocks from their home.

Slowly though, the atmosphere is shifting on Washington Avenue. Restaurants are popping up, like the tasty Cafe Ynez on the 2000 block and the recently opened Chick's on the 1800 block. Not only are restaurants making their way to Washington Avenue, but other types of businesses have also appeared, targeting residents and not contractors. The north side of the 1900 block of Washington Avenue provides a (very convenient and also a) decent example of the changing environment on the corridor.

And it could keep the theatre in its current location

Roughly two months ago, we shared the news that a demolition notice had appeared on the large warehouse on the northwest corner of 13th & Reed. This building has had several uses over the years, including auto repair and mummer equipment storage, but it's most prominently known as the home of theater company Theatre Exile. We were concerned about the future of the theater company with the approaching demolition of the building, and were cheered to learn that Theatre Exile was planning to move to a new and undetermined location after this season.

View from a few months back

We knew that the building would be demolished, but didn't know exactly what would be rising in its place. The developers pulled a permit for the new project that was short on some details, only indicating that the new owners were planning a by-right project. Sometime in the last couple months though, those plans changed, as the developers are now seeking to build a project that will require a variance. The project came before the community this week, and a meeting attendee was kind enough to share some details and a few photos of what we can expect. Check 'em out:

53 new apartments coming soon across from the Piazza

North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties has experienced numerous changes over the years, as it has slowly evolved from vacancy and industrial use to vibrancy and mixed-use. Perhaps the best example of this transition is the Piazza, which stands on the site of defunct Schmidt's Brewery, hence the name Piazza at Schmidt's. A latter day example of this phenomenon exists right across the street from the Piazza, at the corner of 2nd & Wildey. For many years, a fire extinguisher company made its home here, but we showed you about a year ago that their building had been demolished in favor of a planned mixed-use building. As you might imagine, the passing months has made quite the difference at this corner.