New Construction

But the community isn't into it

In Fishtown, neighbors recently voted in opposition to a project that would nearly double the density allowed by right at 1019-23 E Columbia Ave., and it wasn't even close. At a Fishtown Neighbors Association zoning meeting earlier this month, neighbors voted 2-39 not to support plans to convert a parcel under the heels of I-95 into nine new homes and three new duplexes—a total of 15 units 

Zoning notice at the parcel

Designed by KJO Architecture, original plans called for the demolition of a warehouse set back near fifty feet Columbia's intersection with Salmon St. just before the I-95 overpass. As it were, the plans envisioned a Salmon Street fronting, which would have allowed developers to fit twelve new structures on an area that, according to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair, is by right, suited for six or seven houses. Karp estimates that number by taking the total square footage of the lot—about 9700 sqft if you add up the size according to OPA numbers—and dividing it by the size allotted by the zoning code designation that applies to the property—1440 sqft—and you get seven (if you round up). The increased density waved a red flag among neighbors.

“The community didn't understand why they're doubling the amount of density that's allowed,” Karp said. He added that it was a large site, that could nicely accommodate six houses.

Wood siding is the way to go in East Kensington

Coral Street continues to do its thing in East Kensington. Last week, we passed by a construction site at 2400 Coral St., a property we had actually noticed a couple of times previously but never deigned to cover. Our attention was again drawn to the building as the work has continued, with new wood paneling on the side of the building. We'd say it looks better than it once did.

In the past
Corner of Coral Street now

Back in September, this project came before EKNA and got support. The plan for the property is a coffee shop called Franny Lou's Porch, from the same people who once owned Leotah's Place. Several months ago, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $12K to get the business off the ground. Not only will the shop serve tasty coffee to the neighborhood, but it will also focus on community activism and offer folks a "place of rest." We look forward to seeing it open its doors in the coming months.

Meanwhile, a few doors down, we spotted a few foundations. 2025-29 E. York St. all turned over about a year ago, and soon those vacant lots will see three homes rise. The lots are each 17' wide and 100' deep, so the homes should be spacious and have a ton of yard space.

After years and years of fabric stores

When we last checked in on the corner of 4th & Fitzwater, new construction at the southwest corner was approaching completion. Remember, the building that once stood here burned in the spring of 2013, leading to its demolition. While its replacement was under construction, Jack B. Fabrics moved to the 743 S. 4th St., on the southeast corner. In the months since our last visit, the construction finished up and the fabric store moved back to its original location, leaving the space across the street vacant. But it appears as though plans are in the works to fill that space.

Former and present home of Jack B. Fabrics
LCB notice in the window across the street

The names on the LCB application are Scott Schroeder and Patrick O'Malley. Schroeder, according to Philly Voice, is the chef at SPTR and American Sardine Bar. O'Malley is a pastry chef. As of last week, there were no additional details on the project.

Construction is getting started

The warehouse at 112-20 Christian St. that was once home to the Scandinavian Shipping Supply Co. is no more. In its place, a vacant lot. But not for long. Back in the fall of 2013, we told you about plans for the demolition of the building and plans to replace it with nine townhomes. At that time, the developers and the community were still hammering out the details for the project, which was to have four homes on Christian Street and five behind them, facing an interior courtyard. But despite support from members of the Queen Village Neighbors Association, the Planning Commission, and the councilman, the project was denied by the ZBA last spring.

In the past

At the time, there was concern that the developers might simply default to a project they could do by right, a 29-unit apartment building. But somewhere along the line, a variant of the original project was reintroduced and found favor in the eyes of the ZBA. Now, an altered version of this project is underway, though we confess we don't know what changes were made to appease the ZBA.

For now it's just a bunch of steel

It seems that Penn is always building something these days. Some stuff, like a new college house on Hill Field, we've covered already. Other stuff, like the new building under construction on 38th Street, we didn't even realize was happening until a reader tipped us off. This despite the fact that the construction has clearly been going on since the summer.

Building is framed out
Older building next door

According to the Penn website, this will be an expansion of the Lynch Laboratories and will serve the Biology and Psychologys departments at Penn. The building will house research laboratories, teaching facilities, and spaces designed for interactions to foster the kind of cross-disciplinary work that increasingly characterizes work in these fields. Oh, and it's gonna look super awesome.

Construction taking place in different phases, demolition too

Over the summer, we directed our gaze to the 1400 block of Germantown Avenue, lamenting its poor state but looking toward an improved future. Though the block is still pretty much a disaster, you can actually see the progress taking place is you pass by today. In general, the block is humming, with several different projects taking place at the same time.

New framing

In June, we told you about a proposed five-home development at 1404 Germantown Ave., which was at that time a vacant lot. Back then, it had been continued by the ZBA. By July, the project got approval. And in the last couple of months, construction began. You can see, two of the five homes are being framed out now. Additional homes will follow.


Up the street, several blighted properties are in the process of being demolished. As these images are a couple of days old, you'd have to imagine that the demo process has gotten even further along at this point. 1428 Germantown Ave., which looks like it's had some work done in recent years, won't be coming down. As for what's next, we couldn't tell you. No permits have gone out for the properties currently being demolished. But their disappearance will improve the block and you'd have to think that something will soon replace them.

Big project is happening at last

After numerous years in the planning stages, after zoning has been cleared, and after one developer left the project, the New Kensington Community Development Corporation's mixed-housing development, formerly known as Moyer St. Townhomes—now, known simply as Awesometown is underway via a collaboration with Postgreen Homes.

Moyer Street homes, coming soon
Project site plan

They broke ground two weeks ago on the site located on the 400 block of Moyer Street. The project will bring 14 townhomes in two phases. The homes will seek LEED Platinum certification and include sustainable elements like improved rainwater collection abilities, and solar thermal capacities. Phase 1 will include 8 townhomes on the 400 block of Moyer St., followed by a Phase 2 that builds six more homes with Thompson Street addresses. So far, six of the homes have sold, including four of the homes marked for affordable housing. Pre-sale of homes before building is an element Postgreen Homes uses to leverage with banks when developing new projects. About five years ago, after the initial partner failed to get funding and left, Postgreen partnered with NKCDC to continue the vision.

Boy, that alliteration petered out quickly

Some days we're just amazed at how long we've been doing this. Today is such a day. Waaaaay back in November of 2011, we first told you about plans for four homes at 808 Carpenter St., a green project called The Olive Townhomes. This was exciting at the time, as we were pleased to see this curiously vacant lot near the Italian Market get redeveloped. But it's a good thing we weren't too excited, because sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.

See, it wasn't until the spring of 2013 that construction actually got going for this project, when framing took place for two of the homes. From what we can tell, those homes are now finished and one sold last summer for shy of $700K. And you know what, they look pretty good.

The first two homes

Of course, you can't see those homes right now, as construction is underway for the other two homes, the ones that actually front Carpenter Street. Before the snow fell, we snagged some images, just to prove we're not yanking your collective chains.

Another lot will vanish in this growing neighborhood

A couple years back, Michael Loonstyn of MJL Properties built a rather significant project on 19th Street, on a triangular chunk of land between Perkiomen and Vineyard Streets. And just the other week, we told you about ongoing work from this same developer to convert a garage on Cameron Street into four apartments. If our reading of public record is accurate, it seems these guys don't like moving very far when they take on new projects.

Fence around the garage

At 1817 Wylie St., right around the corner from the apartment conversion on Cameron Street, we recently spied a fence around an old two story garage. This building, you can see, has an interesting mural graffitti combo going on. But it's on its way to demolition, as it was purchased by Lofts on Vineyard LLC last year, along with the adjacent property. This company's address tracks back to the aforementioned 35-unit development, leading us to believe it's another MJL project. According to permits, they will be building two quadplexes in place of the garage and the vacant lot to its right in the photo above.

How did we not hear about this before?

The parts of Mantua closest to Drexel have seen a ton of construction in recent years, and the redevelopment is seemingly continuing unabated. Construction is taking place in all shapes and sizes, with one-off projects joined by massive buildings and everything in between. Looking down 34th Street, we see various examples of the different types of development in the area.

On 34th Street between Hamilton and Spring Garden, a 28-unit project has been framed and sheathed. Remember, we first told you about this project over the summer, when a building that previously housed an old deli had just been demolished. Just north of Haverford Avenue, also on 34th Street, an old home was torn down a couple of years ago and a new apartment building is under construction.

Project at 34th & Spring Garden

In between those projects, yet another residential development is underway. Somehow, we weren't aware that the building at 34th & Brandywine, most recently the New Hope Primitive Baptist Church and originally the 34th Street Baptist Church, was in danger of being demolished. Passing by a couple of weeks ago though, we saw that the beautiful building from the late 1800s is now gone.