New Construction

Not that there's anything wrong with that

We were making our way down N. 2nd Street in Northern Liberties the other day, and noticed a big new building on the 900 block. We've actually written about this property, 966 N. 2nd St., in the past, back in the fall of 2015. At that time, we told you that a long vacant building had just been torn down and that developers had approval to build a new building in its place. We were all kinds of pleased that this building had gotten demoed, it had been blighting the block for as long as we could recall and it also resembled Swamp Thing.


In the past

Pretty much the same thing

Today, it's a wildly different world at this location. Developer Shimi Zaken, who has done multiple projects in Northern Liberties, is behind this one as well. The building will have 13 residential units, a veterinary clinic on the first floor, and 8 underground parking spaces. It had to go to NLNA and zoning, but not for the reason you might expect.

Lots of construction and renovation

Needless to say, Point Breeze has experienced a dramatic shift over the last few years, as developers have bought up all available vacant land with an eye toward new construction. Along those lines, most existing homes that come onto the market have either been rehabbed and flipped/rented out or demolished and replaced by more new construction. We see this development all across the neighborhood, but the northeast corner of 18th & Reed in particular presents a microcosm of Point Breeze in 2017, as the entire corner has turned over in the last few years.

Here's a view of this corner from 2011, thanks to Google Street View:


Six years ago, looking south on 18th Street

Six years back at the corner

Viewed from the north, we see 1335-37 S. 18th St. was a two-story home, while 1339 and 1341 S. 18th St. were sitting vacant. Looking to the east, the corner was a mixed-use building with a church next door. 1729 and 1727 Reed St. were unrenovated three story buildings, and 1356 S. Bouvier St. was another vacant lot. Checking in on this corner today, we see a world of difference.

Can't think of other projects in this immediate area

We admit, we don't make our way up to East Falls, Manayunk, or Roxborough as often as we'd like, call it an occupational hazard of working out of Center City. But every now and then, especially with a juicy tip in hand, we'll find our way to that part of town. Recently, we got word from friend of the blog @genbrewerytown about a significant project under construction at 34th & Commissioner, in what's known as the Allegheny West neighborhood. We've seen little to no development in this neighborhood previously, but that could be changing. It's right on the edge of East Falls, with the Trolley Car Diner only a few blocks away. There's a world in which development starts to spread east from East Falls, and puts a charge into Allegheny West. Certainly, this project could play a role in growing interest in the neighborhood.

So what project are we talking about? Here's a look at what's happening at 3000 N. 34th St. so far:

With thanks to the architects

Yesterday, we told you about plans for a sizable development for a vacant parcel at 5th & Cecil B. Moore, but the zoning application was a bit confusing and even so we had no details on the exact plan for the site. Seeing our story, a couple of readers, including the architects for the project, reached out to provide more details. So now we know exactly what's planned for this site and we have a decent idea of what it'll look like, to boot.


Current view on 5th St.

We told you that the zoning application suggested a plan for four buildings with a total of 60 units and 58 parking spaces. Now we know that the project will entail 41 homes, 4 duplexes, 2 triplexes, 2 mixed-use buildings, and 26 parking spaces. So... our reading of the application was a little off base. The developer for the project is the River Wards Group, and KJO Architecture did the design work. Someone sent along the CDR packet for the project, though we don't think it's gone before the committee just yet. Check out these renderings, to get an idea of what's to come:

Ever heard of this neighborhood?

As far as greater Center City goes, we've got a really good handle on neighborhood names, boundaries, and the different challenges of dealing with various community zoning committees. But when we head into West Philadelphia, we admit that our neighborhood geography gets a little shaky. And the farther west we go, the less we know. So we were pretty proud when, the other day, a reader told us about some upcoming construction on the 5100 block of Arch Street and we knew that this was in the Mill Creek neighborhood.

Except... it wasn't. It turns out that this block is, in fact, located in the Dunlap neighborhood. This tiny neighborhood runs from Market Street to Haverford Ave, from 49th to 52nd Street. Wikipedia says the neighborhood was named after the Dunlap School, which was converted into senior housing in the early 1990s. It also suggests that the neighborhood is "generally known for low income housing with household incomes generally below the poverty level" and that there are "many dilapidated or abandoned houses" in the neighborhood. And from our brief visit to the neighborhood, we have to say that it seems Wikipedia's onto something.

As for the upcoming construction, it's planned for a sizable vacant lot at 5110-5116 Arch St., and developers are planning a row of four triplexes. This will be a by-right project, so it has that going for it.

A big improvement over a vacant lot

1620 N. 5th St. is a huge vacant lot that, as you might guess from its South Kensington location, has some serious industrial history. Turning back the clock, the parcel has had many uses over the years, with occupants including a lumber yard, a printing company, a mill, a stone yard, and many others we couldn't readily identify based on historic maps. Most recently though, the property has sat empty, aside from hosting a trapeze setup for the Fly School Circus Arts a few years back. As it occupies about 1.25 acres on the edge of a burgeoning neighborhood, it was only a matter of time before development came for this hilariously underused parcel. And that time has come, it seems.


Vacancy up 5th Street

Looking south from Cecil B. Moore Ave.

A few years back, developers had a plan to slice off a few lots on the Randolph Street side of this parcel, ostensibly for residential development, but nothing ever came of that plan. With zoning notices now posted, we can share that the current plan for the property seems more intuitive and likely to move forward. By our reading of the application, it appears that developers are looking to build four apartment buildings with a total of 60 units and 58 parking spaces. Since the property is zoned for industrial use (a relic of its past), the developers need to go to the ZBA.

Might be an avenue for preserving sacred spaces too

Nobody likes to see old buildings get torn down. Just over the last few years, Philadelphia has seen a torrent of demolitions, with old churches getting torn down at an unprecedented rate. Take, for example, the former New Light Beulah Baptist Church, which has made its home in a building at the northwest corner of 17th & Bainbridge that was originally built around 1870. About a month ago, we told you it would be demolished and replaced by condos or town homes. In the time that's passed since then, demolition work has gotten underway.

Should have seen this last week

Wow, we hate when this happens. Just last week, we told you about some ongoing demolition at 2nd & Washington, where developers are planning a quartet of new duplexes. We also took the opportunity to update you on the progress of the renovation of the former Snockey's Oyster House into condos, happening right next door. If we would have only looked a little farther to the north though, we would have noticed there's some additional construction happening just a few steps away. Alas, a reader reached out to let us know about it, and back we trudged to the corner of 2nd & Carpenter.


View at 2nd & Carpenter

What you're actually seeing here is two different projects happening at the same time. The property at the corner has historically been a triplex (though the first floor was surely commercial at some point), and it was listed for sale last year for $625K. Eventually, and probably because it needed a ton of work, it sold for a much more reasonable price of $375K. The new owners are now in the process of gutting and renovating the building, and we wonder whether the units will be rentals, like some many buildings in the area, or condos, like the projects at the southern end of the block. We'd bet on the former.

Project was approved back in 2013

Do we ever love a good zombie project. When we use this term, we're referring to projects that we covered long ago that never happened, and then years later they suddenly move forward, and it's as if they rose from the dead. Zombie project. Get it?


This, exactly

But let's not get distracted by amazing dance moves from the 1980s. Instead, let's turn our attention to 1325 Buttonwood St., a one-story garage that isn't doing anybody much good. In the summer of 2013, developers went to the ZBA with a plan to demolish this building and replace it with a five story building with ten apartments and four parking spots. The ZBA shot 'em down. By the end of the year, they came back with a revised plan for eight units and four parking spots and got approved. We wrote about the project in early 2014, and told you to "look for demolition to begin sooner rather than later," and we were way off base. The building remains intact, as of yesterday.

Plenty of other opportunities nearby

We needed to make a run to the Post Office today and happened upon an unexpected zoning notice at the southwest corner of 27th & Federal. Developers bought the property a little over a year ago, paying a mere $22K for the long vacant parcel, and now they're looking to build a home here. The property is zoned for industrial use, hence the zoning notice, and it seems like a reasonable enough idea to us.


Zoning notice

Across the street, the shell at 2701 Federal St. is currently listed for sale for $125K, as is the shell next door. Both of these buildings are quite unique, but for different reasons. 2703 Federal St. has an entirely blank facade, with no windows or doors, so we have no idea how someone is supposed to get inside. 2701 Federal St. has windows and doors, with some kind of odd trim above each window and the front door. It looks a little like an angry cartoon character with a mustache, and we don't believe we've ever made that comparison in all our years of writing about real estate. You don't have to squint too hard to see what we're talking about.

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