New Construction

Replacing vacant lot and two-story home

Development is continuing to push the boundaries of Fishtown, getting closer to and even crossing over Aramingo or Lehigh Avenues. Technically, much of this activity is taking place in the area that's covered by the Olde Richmond Civic Association, which hears zoning proposals for projects to the east of Trenton Avenue. Today we look at a by-right build in this area, at 2618-20 Memphis St., so the community group wasn't involved in the project. Not that it's so controversial.

In the past

In the past, the corner of Memphis & Albert had a fenced-in vacant lot and a two-story building next door. The property was listed for sale several times in recent years, always in the $125K range. Finally, late last year, a developer decided to bite on the parcel. These are the same guys that have built other homes in the neighborhood in the past. In the time that's passed since they bought the parcel, the corner fence and the little home have been demolished and two new homes have appeared in their place. 

Triplexes will replace it

Francisville will soon get five new triplexes, but it will come at the expense of a church. We happened to pass by the 1500 block of Cambridge St. the other day and noticed a zoning notice at 1510 Cambridge St., the home of the Church of God Through the Truth. Many churches around town are architectural spectacles, but this one looks like it may have had a former life as a warehouse or garage.

The church

The building, along with the vacant lot to the west, were listed for sale earlier this year for $1.3M. Last week, developers went before the ZBA for permission to build five triplexes here. This is necessary because this side of the block is zoned for commercial use. Perhaps this was appropriate at one point, but now residential seems like the correct path. The north side of the block is entirely residential, with a line of buildings that have seemingly escaped the wave of development that's swept over the neighborhood in the last few years.

Changes continue for this little block

For a narrow block with homes on only one side, the 1900 block of Alter Street has seen quite a bit of change in recent years. Perhaps the biggest change occurred about three years ago, when a row of five new construction homes replaced a vacant lot. Remember, across the street from those homes there's a cool mural that makes a warehouse wall resemble row homes if you look at it quickly. Also, Greenstreet Coffee Roasters has their roasting facility on the north side of this block, which is why the area sometimes smells like roasting coffee.

Looking east on the 1900 block of Alter St.
Newer homes on the south side

Two more vacant lots are now on the outs on this block, at 1902 and 1904 Alter St.

Just a block up from other new construction

The 700 block of N. 19th St. has changed some in recent years, with developers demolishing one-story homes built by PHA in the 1980s and replacing them with modern buildings. Most recently, we told you about some demolition on this block, and plans for a six-unit building. That project, at 742 N. 19th St., has progressed nicely since the winter.

Six-unit building under construction, new duplex nearby

The 800 block of N. 19th St. has seen some recent development as well, notably the construction of four triplexes at the corner of 19th & Brown, a lot that was formerly the site of a pleasant unity mural. And this block should be getting some more triplexes in the near future.

We don't know what's next

Cecil B. Moore Avenue has seen all kinds of changes in recent years, as the neighborhood close to Temple University has experienced an unprecedented wave of development. Walking down this street, you can see a mix of older buildings that have survived for about a hundred years and new structures which are generally used for student housing. Slowly, we're seeing demolition for some of the older buildings that have not been well maintained. And the other day we spotted another one that looks like it will soon come down.

Former cleaners

1700 Cecil B. Moore Ave. was once a cleaners and it retains some of the old signage. The projecting sign at the corner is pretty great and the "Frequent Cleaning Adds Beauty and Long Life" on the side of the building is amazing. But the newest sign on the building is perhaps the most interesting. It's a Notice of Demolition. Developers bought the property late last year for $235K and have pulled permits to tear it down. We don't know about their plans for the property, but they interestingly have listed the property for sale since a month after they bought it.

In either direction, there's a bunch of newer properties.

What will go into the retail space?

The 1700 block of Folsom Street sat mostly vacant for many years but the Folsom Powerhouse project has brought amazing new life to this street. This project from Equinox Management & Construction and Postgreen Homes and designed by by Interface Studio Architects is getting built in phases. We last checked in on this project around Thanksgiving when the first phase, three townhomes and four duplexes, had just wrapped up. Construction was just getting underway on two larger buildings, one with four apartments and a commercial space and a second one with six apartments. The months have passed and those buildings have progressed quite nicely.

Come out and show some support!

A construction fence appeared last summer at the southeast corner of 20th & Reed, a corner that's been vacant for quite some time. We were pleased to tell you about plans for a mixed-use building at the corner and a home next door, but we weren't exactly confident that a retail tenant would rush into a lease at this location. We wondered whether the developers were taking an approach we've seen in other neighborhoods, where a space is built out as commercial but transitions to residential for a lack of interest from businesses. Looking at the building, you can see that the first floor could work as either a business or an apartment.

20th & Reed
Closer look

But sometimes we're wrong and in this case it seems we were. And we're not sad to admit it.

If you take a close look at the window, you can see a letter has been posted.

All need variances for different reasons

The agenda at last week's SOSNA zoning committee meeting was fairly innocuous and we almost didn't attend. But sometimes even a boring looking agenda can produce an interesting meeting, so we're kinda glad we showed our face after all. Today we'll give you the lowdown on three of the four projects that were on that agenda, all of which are located on 21st Street.

Vacant lot at 730 S. 21st St.

730 S. 21st St. has been vacant for a long time, and in recent years it contained a neatly landscaped garden. These days it's a little overgrown, but maybe that's because it's in the process of getting sold and soon a home will sprout here. The proposal for this parcel is very straightforward, just a single-family home. The lot is only 47' deep, and a by-right build would only permit a 33' deep home which is a lousy depth for a new construction home. Aside from some confusion about the status of the upcoming sale of the property, the people in room didn't seem to have an issue with the project.

A familiar theme in this neighborhood

In Northern Liberties there must be a never-ending stock of vacant lots and unused industrial spots, because at least every other month, plans for a large project seem to pop up on the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association zoning agenda.

The latest example is 312-30 Fairmount Ave., where last month developer David Perlman proposed 27 homes, each with parking. One major bit of feedback from NLNA was to cut the height of the homes to 38 feet. “We're generally okay with the project,” said Larry Freedman, NLNA zoning chair, “except for the structure furthest east.”

The property on Fairmount Ave.
View on 4th Street

The property includes a few old warehouse buildings on Fairmount Ave. and 4th St., and members of the NLNA wondered whether developers could salvage one section, a brick element of the property on the east side that includes carriage doors that run nearly to the top of the building. Adaptive reuse would certainly be an attractive aesthetic, but we're not certain that approach would work for this project.

Project has been almost a decade in the making

Just yesterday, a reader gave us the heads up that a new construction fence had appeared on the 1000 block of Mount Vernon Street. As is our way, we decided to check things out posthaste.

New fence on the 1000 block of Mount Vernon St.
Closer look

Well wouldn't you know it, that is indeed a construction fence. And there's some heavy equipment on the site as well. So you're probably wondering what's happening here, huh?

It turns out this project has been in the works for almost a decade. New Urban Ventures LLC bought the property from the City back in 2006 and actually got zoning approval for the construction of ten homes with a parking lot a couple of years later. And then, nothing. The lot has been sitting vacant ever since, waiting for redevelopment. This story felt very familiar to us, and then we made the connection. This is actually part of the Spring Arts Point project!

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