One of our first predictions for 2017 was that North Broad Street would take a major step forward this year, and it didn't even take two weeks for news to emerge that supports this expectation. Hey, when you're good, you're good.
About a year and a half ago, we told you about an amazing old building available for sale at the corner of Broad & York and encouraged you to buy it, if you're into that sort of thing. And it's quite possible this story inspired somebody out there, as the building changed hands for $825K in the summer of 2015. When we first brought the property to your attention, we wondered what someone could ultimately do with this property, as it was originally built as the Mikveh Israel synagogue and is listed on the local historic register.
View of the building
View from across the street
It turns out, the folks that bought the building decided to either open a retail store in the building or have leased it out as such. Official Unlimited is a retail store with another location in Willow Grove that sells clothing items from various brands. At their address on North Broad Street, they've taken advantage of the amazing interior of the building to present their wares. The building is divided into two separate rooms, with a small space in the front which we imagine was once a lobby, and a larger space in the back which we have to believe was the sanctuary. Check it out:
Compared to the pace of construction from a few years ago, there's not much development happening in the neighborhoods around Temple these days. You can probably chalk that up to a combination of a shrinking supply of vacant land and a growing supply of new student housing which could translate into a dip in rent numbers. That being said, there's still some stuff happening around these parts, like at 1254 N. Carlisle St. where developers recently tore down a one story warehouse. The now vacant L-shaped lot is surrounded by a chain link fence which gave us the sense that something might be happening here.
In the past
According to zoning plans submitted for the property, we can soon expect a four-story building here with 18 apartments. The project will also include five parking spots in a surface parking lot, accessed from Burns Street. Looking at the site plan, it appears there will be some open space between the building and the parking lot, and we have no idea what's happening with that space.
We were on North Broad Street just a couple days ago, telling you about an eight story building planned for the 800 block, and we reminded you that the amazing and beautiful Metropolitan Opera House was getting renovated at some undetermined point in the near future. Yesterday, we got an email from CBRE advertising up to 5,600 sqft of retail space for rent at the Met, which gives us a hint that redevelopment might be coming sooner than later. This is clearly phenomenal news.
A couple of readers have reached out over the last few days to give us the heads up that some new permits have appeared on a chain link fence on North Broad Street, in between Uhuru Furniture and the appropriately named Tire Shop. We made our way to 836 N. Broad St. earlier today and discovered a vacant property looking much like it has over the last few years. But that's about to change in a big way.
The hits keep on coming for North Broad Street. Once seen as the red headed stepchild of the Avenue of the Arts, North Broad Street has seen an amazing resurgence in the last few years and its future is incredibly bright. At Broad & Fairmount, the renovation of the Divine Lorraine is progressing, restoring one of the most striking buildings on the corridor and bringing 121 new units to the area. Restaurants like Osteria and Alla Spina are making North Broad Street a destination for people that don't live nearby. And very soon, even more people will call North Broad Street home.
Yesterday, Philly.com reported that the Parkway Corporation has purchased the large surface parking lot on the northwest corner of Broad & Spring Garden. The plans are a little nebulous at this time, but should be of the mixed-use variety and include residential, office space, and retail. And since it's Parkway, we have to assume that parking will also be involved, even though the property sits on a BSL stop.
Another day, another vacant Francisville lot getting redeveloped.
These days, it seems that you can't go a single block in this neighborhood without running into a contractors framing a building, pouring a foundation, or digging a new hole. Ridge Avenue is particular is seeing an explosion in development, with a bunch of mixed-use projects now under construction and more coming soon. We don't know exactly what businesses will fill all those retail spaces, but we do know that they'll need as many neighbors as possible to ensure success. Or at least viability.
So let's consider 1431 Brown St. as a prime example of the kind of project that will help Ridge Avenue get to where it needs to go.
1431-33 Brown St. has been sitting vacant for many years, owned by religious institutions since the 1950s. At some point in the last few months, developers bought the property and now they're proposing a ten-unit building here. This is a lot of density for what's essentially a double-wide lot, but why the heck not? Ridge Avenue is just steps away and as we said, the corridor needs as much density as it can get. And not for nothing, but North Broad Street is almost as close, with a Broad Street Line station less than two blocks away.
There's a small commercial building at 15th & Hamilton, on the eastern edge of the campus for the Community College of Philadelphia, which will soon be on the outs. Had things broken differently, this site could have been the backyard of Philadelphia's second casino, but instead it will be home to roughly five-hundred new units of student housing. Considering the current situation, just about any change would represent an upgrade. Well, aside from a casino.
Current view from 15th Street
Current view from 16th Street
Last week, Philly.com reported that CCP will be teaming up with Radnor Property Group to construct two new 11-story buildings on this site with an eye toward attracting international students (who somehow pay three times as much as American students). These buildings, designed by BLT Architects, will include parking and a retail component as well. We're perhaps most pleased about the mid-rise scale of the buildings, it seems we don't see too much new construction of this size in Philadelphia.
For over 20 years, Project HOME has been at the forefront of getting stuff done when it comes to making inroads against Philadelphia's homelessness problem. Not only does the organization provide direct services like healthcare and adult education for the homeless population, but they also advocate for better public policy around the issue. They're also a fairly productive developer of supportive housing for people who need it most. We recently covered one of their most prominent projects to date, the Francis House of Peace, which was finished in 2015. Rather than take a breather from the arduous work of funding and managing development, the organization is marching forward with yet another project, this time much further away from the Center City area where many of their projects have happened lately.
Their next project will happen at 2415 North Broad St., along the stretch of North Broad Street between Temple University and the North Philadelphia train station. This is an area that, despite its location close to the Temple Medical and Temple University campuses and incredibly easy transit access, has plenty of abandoned/derelict property. Having heard that the development broke ground last month, we wanted to check up on it and see what was going on.
The expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center wrapped up in 2011 and cost almost $800M; it's the largest public-works project in the history of the state. This effort stretched the Convention Center to North Broad Street and increased the size of the building by about 50%, ostensibly attracting larger conventions that couldn't be accommodated by the original space. The thought was that additional space would mean more conventions, more visitors, and more money in the City's coffers. Sadly, it hasn't really worked out that way.
Convention Center on Broad Street
Don't get us wrong, the Convention Center is improved. The Flower Show keeps getting bigger and better. The Auto Show was awesome this year. And it's true that the Convention Center is doing a better job of attracting and retaining large conventions than it did in the past. But it's just not proving to be enough, especially considering the cost of the expansion. And despite the improved performance, not a single convention has needed the entire million square feet of space available. So the Convention Center is taking on a permanent tenant in their banquet space closest to Broad Street, and that tenant is a laser tag company.