New Construction

Sold for more than we'd have expected

At the northeast corner of 7th & Morris, developers built a trio of new homes over the last year, replacing a surface parking lot. We told you about the project when construction was just getting started, and if you visit the intersection today you'll notice that the homes are finished. One odd architectural detail, the corner home has a nice sized bay with some hilariously small windows. We get it, the bathrooms have to go somewhere, but it seems like a missed opportunity to add natural light to the home with two frontages.

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.

Part rehab, part new construction

The property at 1328 N. 5th St. must have been very attractive in its heyday, but we couldn't tell you for sure because it's been sitting vacant and blighted for at least a decade.

In the past

The good news is that the surrounding area, like so much of South Kensington, has been on the dramatic upswing of late, with the reawakening umbrella factory being a keystone project. As the umbrella factory is just a few steps away form 1328 N. 5th St., it doesn't come as a surprise that the building is getting brought back to active use. The exact way in which it's happening though, is a little out of the ordinary.

Developers associated with Solo Realty bought the building back in 2013, as part of an estate sale. A couple years later, they purchased the vacant lot next door, which has been owned by a City agency. Combined, the properties measure 40'x100' and go street to street, which affords the owners a variety of redevelopment options. We'd have bet on demolition, but that's not what's happening. Instead, they've opted to renovate the old building at 1328 N. 5th St. and build a new building next door, combining them into a single residential building with 7 condo units. The design work, from Bright Common, is really quite striking.

Beer distributor next door still doing its thing too

It was a little over a year ago that we told you that developers had purchased the long vacant lot at 617-21 Moore St. and redevelopment was on the horizon. We shared the details of the project, that it would include four homes on Moore Street with two of those homes interrupted by a drive-aisle, and five homes to the north on Pierce Street. We even included a shmancy 3D rendering, to give you an idea of what kind of project to expect.

Rendering from about a year ago

Checking in now, we see that the project is moving forward. Already, all of the homes have been framed out, with a little more progress on the Pierce Street side. We figured that some of the homes would be listed for sale by now, but it seems the developers are waiting until the homes are a little farther along before putting them on the market. It will be fascinating to see what kind of prices they're able to get for new construction homes with parking in this area, and how quickly they're able to line up buyers. We'll also keep an eye on how much of a price cut the developers must make to sell off the somewhat flawed carriage house units.

And they're by right, too

We were traveling up Frankford Avenue the other day, after enjoying a tasty lunch at Steap and Grind, and we spied what looked like a construction site in its early stages on the 1600 block of E. Eyre Street. Behind the chain link fence, it looks like something was demolished sometime recently. But looks can be deceiving! It turns out, 1645 1/2 E. Eyre St. was just a surface parking lot.

In the past

In a case of looks being deceiving in quick succession, this property is way bigger than it looks. The previous owners only used a portion of the parcel for parking, even though it covers roughly 8,000 sqft. In this neighborhood, that's a whole lot of underused land. Oh by the way, the property is zoned for multi-family use, making it even more attractive for redevelopment. And wouldn't you know it, developers snapped up the property last fall, paying $1.3M even though it appears it was never formally listed for sale.

But not before a profitable flip

Every now and again, we pass along news of a sweet development opportunity and encourage anyone and everyone to consider taking advantage and making an investment. To give you a sense that we occasionally know what we're talking about, let's consider a recent example that worked out very well for a local real estate investor. It was a little over a year ago that we brought 1145 N. Delaware Ave. to your attention, noting that the 65K sqft waterfront parcel was going to auction with a minimum sale price of $3.6M. We shared some history, noting that a 168-unit project was sunk by the 2008 economic downturn, resulting in foreclosure in 2010. We also discussed the property's attractive location, right next to Penn Treaty Park, and its favorable CMX-3 zoning, which gives developers multiple by-right redevelopment options.

About a year ago

Aerial view of the property

In July of last year, developers purchased the property, paying $3.77M. Shortly after, they hired Abitare Design Studio to proceed with a zoning plan for 19 high-end 3,800 sqft townhomes, each with two car parking, elevators, etc. They even got a sweet rendering out of the deal.

Property has an unexpected history

We were in East Kensington over the weekend, trying to snap some photos of new development, but road work diverted us onto Kensington Avenue. This ended up working out nicely, as we stumbled upon some new construction at 2459 Kensington Ave. that we previously knew nothing about. This large property had been owned by the City since 1990 and was set up as a basketball court, but the overgrown Google Street View images tell us that nobody was using it as such for the last several years. Developers bought it for $148K about a year ago.

Overgrown basketball court

This property looks rather different today, as it's an active construction site. Check it out:

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.

And building a new home in the back

It was a pretty common thing, a few decades back, that developers were buying up huge old mansions in the Rittenhouse neighborhood and chopping them up into apartment units. In fact, some of the most affordable (and crappy) apartments in Center City can be found in those converted buildings. While this was a rather common practice back in the day, we don't see it very often anymore and the reason for this change is simple. Today, most of the old mansions that haven't been converted to apartments are well maintained and will likely remain single family for the foreseeable future. There are hardly any properties left where it makes financial sense to convert from single family to rentals or condos. But every now and then, we run into one.