New Construction

Block has turned around thanks to PHA auction

A little over three years ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority held a press conference on the 3000 block of Cambridge Street, announcing plans to auction off 400 scattered site properties. Included in that list were five vacant and blighted properties on the block. The press conference set up shop in front of 3020 and 3022 Cambridge St., which were in terrible condition at the time.

Press conference in 2011

Those same homes are looking much better these days. Like many other homes on the block, they've been sold to private developers, renovated, and resold to residents. 

Current view of those homes

A couple of homes on this block could still use some love, but the changes have been incredible in just a few short years. And some more changes are surely on the way. The western end of this block is a dead-end, separated from Fairmount Park by railroad tracks. But the homes end before the end of the block. We spotted zoning notices a couple of weeks ago though, suggesting that the end of the block will soon fill in some.

Not expected but not a huge shock either

Marshall Street between Poplar and Girard was once a bustling commercial corridor, full of shops and pushcarts like the Italian Market. Philaplace gives a lovely telling of the history of this stretch, and explains that a combination of white flight and a redevelopment plan from the 1950s that never came to fruition ultimately sunk most of the Marshall Street businesses. The street never really recovered and it looks pretty bad today. Many of the buildings remaining on the block appear to have residential tenants, but the storefronts are mostly shuttered. And there's not shortage of vacant lots either.

Some older buildings on Marshall Street

But there's something funny happening on the 900 block of Marshall Street. New homes are getting built. Two have risen to date, at 922 and 936 N. Marshall St., one of which has already sold. 936 N. Marshall St. is currently on the market for $550K.

Project has dragged some and changed over time

A couple of years ago, we were very pleased to bring you the news that the former Pride of the Sea warehouse at 4th & Brown was being demolished, and that new homes would rise in its place. We're generally bummed when handsome old churches or row homes come down in favor of new development, but this building was adding nothing to the neighborhood. And even if someone wanted to reuse it, we wonder whether that fish smell ever comes out.

In the past

The demolition took place back in June of 2012, and we expected to see two new homes rise on 4th Street and three more on Brown Street. The project, which was called Foundry Court, was of particular interest because of a partnership with with Nexus EnergyHomes to build the first Net Zero homes in Philadelphia. Plans included the use of geothermal heating and cooling and extremely tight building envelopes. From what we can tell looking at a past and current listing for the 4th Street homes, the project moved forward with only those two properties. The 3,000 sqft home at 718 N. 4th St. is currently on the market for $779,900.

A the corner of Mascher and Thompson

In a vacuum, 1265 Mascher St. is an ideal candidate for redevelopment. It's been vacant for decades. It's a block away from Girard Avenue and two blocks from Frankford Avenue. Located in South Kensington, it's surrounded on all sides by small and medium sized projects and there's a couple of huge projects in the pipeline nearby. With a footprint of about 20'x44', you can build a nice house here which should sell quickly. So... what's the problem?

In the past

This property was, until recently, part of the Cohocksink Community Garden. The parcels pictured above have been used as a garden on and off over the years, and according to the current iteration was organized in 2010. A lot that's owned by the Kensington South CDC is bookended by two privately owned properties, a situation that meant that the garden was always living on borrowed time, especially given the rampant redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. Recently, work got started on a new single family home on the corner, a parcel that previously featured plantings, a tall pine tree, and a picnic table. Now it's literally a hole in the ground.

Changing lot lines makes two homes possible

It's more infill development in South Kensington to share as the "build wherever you can" motif continues to transform old out of date garages and vacant lots into residential units. This time, developers have taken two lots next to a bodega where Palethorp hits Master Street and they're rearranging lot lines to build two single-family homes.

Current view

Right now, 180 Master St. is definitely a buildable lot, measuring 17' wide by about 53' deep. 1349 Palethorp St. presents a bigger challenge, as it's an unusual 36' wide and only 17' deep. But if you move the lot lines around, you can slightly reduce the footprint of the corner property and extend the Palethorp property to allow for two reasonably sized lots and eventually homes. It's common sense stuff really. Both lots were acquired in January of this year by Infill Ventures, a most fitting name, for about $125K together. Interestingly, the lots were previously owned by two different parties who were able to coordinate the sales of their separate lots, probably resulting in higher sale prices for both.

Apartments joining warehouses

The 1000 block of Wood Street doesn't seem like a natural fit for development at first glance. It's half a block from the Vine Street Expressway. The block is lined with warehouses that contain, among other businesses, a food distributor, an art gallery, and a tofu factory. Though the viaduct nearby might soon become a park, it more looms over the area than benefits it right now.

On the other hand, the Goldtex building is just a block away. There's been other development nearby in the neighborhood, including the project we recently revisited on Noble Street. And if when the viaduct turns into a park, this location will suddenly become extremely desirable. So really it isn't so shocking that we recently came upon three new foundations at 1028-32 Wood St., a former parking lot.

In the past
Current view

This project is odd in that we couldn't find any permitting info online. Fortunately, a sign on the site filled in the blanks. Soon, 3 four-story buildings will rise here, each with five apartment units. This will be a change for this block, which is currently, as we said above, quite industrial. But like so many other blocks in this formerly industrial neighborhood, times are changing.

More units are coming

It's been many months since we checked on the Folsom Powerhouse project in Francisville, and there's been plenty of progress at the site since our last visit. Remember, the first phase of this project from Equinox Management & Construction and Postgreen Homes included the construction of seven buildings- three townhomes and four duplexes. All of those units, designed by by Interface Studio Architects, were available for sale and have sold, according to the Postgreen website. A couple of weeks ago, a ribbon cutting took place, celebrating the completion of the first phase.

The units that are already finished

With the completion of the first phase, it's now onto the second phase of this development. On 18th Street, two apartment buildings are now under construction. These ten units will be rental apartments and one of the buildings will include a retail space. Further east on Folsom Street, a single home, a triplex, and three more duplexes are on tap. 

Should be ready next fall

It wasn't so long ago that we first told you about plans to demolish engineering labs at 34th & Lancaster and replace them with a large mixed-use student housing building, ostensibly for Drexel kids. About a year ago, those efforts got underway and when we checked back here in January the building process was just getting underway. We passed by last week, and were really impressed by the progress that's taken place at the site in as this year has rolled along. We didn't even need to pass by actually, we could see the building from blocks away.

This thing is pretty tall

The project, now called the Summit at University City is being built by American Campus, the same company that recently built the Chestnut Square development nearby. These guys have done almost a hundred student housing projects around the country, and have pretty much perfected the art. This might explain, in part, the rapid pace of construction.

Years in the making

Almost three years ago, we first brought you to the corner where Titan Street hits Point Breeze Avenue, to a large parcel that's been vacant for many years. We shared, with excitement, plans for the redevelopment of this lot with a new mixed-use building. We wondered if this development, with thirteen apartments and a first-floor commercial space, would spur new construction in the neighborhood and on the corridor, and whether it would encourage new businesses to come to Point Breeze.

In the past, a huge vacant lot

In the years that have passed since we first broke news of this project, construction has indeed continued in the surrounding neighborhood. And a few new businesses have opened on Point Breeze Avenue, including OCF Coffee House, a new pharmacy, and Breezy's Cafe. But this property has continued to sit, embroiled in litigation. A few months ago, the lawsuit was thrown out and construction finally got started. Passing by earlier today, we discovered a building that's been fully framed to two stories, with work taking place on the third.

Small changes, less specific tenants

Earlier this week, we updated you on the three-story building that's currently under construction at 15th & Walnut. As we told you, the steel for the building looks to be wrapping up.

Current view

After our post went up, a representative from architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson reached out and provided us with an updated rendering for the project. Here's the last one we had, along with the new one, for comparison:

Previous rendering
New rendering

According to the architects, this building will have the first truss-stiffened unitized curtain wall in America. Comparing the old rendering with the new, there are a couple of notable changes. You'll notice that the glass walls now have muntin-like features, which makes the building more interesting than before in our opinion. More immediately recognizable, you'll notice no tenants are specifically called out in the new image. That's perhaps an indication that the retail spaces are still mostly up in the air (with the exception of the Cheesecake Factory of course). But seriously, has anyone gotten confirmation on any other tenants?