We last visited the corner of Mascher & Oxford a little over a month ago, and were a little confused about a zoning notice posted on a vacant lot at the corner advertising a plan for eight new homes. This seemed curious, since the developers had subdivided part of the property into ten lots last summer, so we didn't know whether this application was a change to the previous plan or whether it meant that even more homes would be rising here. Passing by the property just the other day, we spied a sign at the corner which directed us to a website for the project that provided some helpful information.
Newer homes on Oxford St., small bit of Oxford Mills
While the ten homes in the photo above made a dent in the vacant lot that we mentioned above, it's still pretty empty, considering its size. Part of the lot is being used for parking, while the rest sits empty aside from some older homes. But not for long, it seems.
Howard Street in North Kensington is getting two more homes. We were in the neighborhood the other day and noticed two homes under construction at 1509-11 N. Howard St., formerly a vacant lot. We'd guess that they've been under construction for the last couple of months and you'd think we'd have mentioned them before, but alas they haven't shown up on our radar until now.
Two new homes
These homes are rising immediately to the south of Oxford Mills, a textile mill that was converted into apartments for teachers and non-profit workers. Oxford Mills also happens to be home to the excellent and cool looking Gryphon Coffee. Try the Brussel Sprout Grilled Cheese.
Oxford Mills is right next door
Around the corner from these new homes, we told you about a new duplex under construction back in March. At the time, we were surprised (as usual) that developers were building so close to the El, and we wondered whether it would take awhile to sell the units.
As recently as five years ago, the south side of Oxford Street between Howard and Mascher Streets was a large vacant lot, and the building immediately to the east was home to a lamp factory that looked like crap. What a difference a few years has made for this small stretch and South Kensington as a whole.
In the past
Of course, we told you about this development before any of it happened. A few years ago, we told you about plans to convert the Pieri lamp factory, originally a dye works, into Oxford Mills, a mixed-use building targeting teachers and non-profit workers. And it was just over two years ago that we told you about plans from D3 Developers for ten homes ar 120 W. Oxford St., the aforementioned vacant lot. In the time that's passed since then, all of the homes have been completed and from what we can tell all of them have sold. At the very least, none are currently listed for sale. Prices for the homes ranged between $400K and $440K, from what we can tell.
It seems that South Kensington will soon see another warehouse turn into apartments. Last week, the ZBA gave their approval to a plan for new construction plus an addition at 1508 Mascher St. and the creation of 22 apartments and 8 parking spots. The building has been home to Spencer Industries for decades, with the company producing custom signs for hundreds of clients over the years.
Building has nice bones
We reached out to Spencer to learn about next steps for the company, but we couldn't get anyone on the phone. We hope that they'll remain in business, just at another location. It's a fair assumption that they will move to another space, perhaps outside the city, and the sale of their property has less to do with their business and more to do with the strong demand for real estate in South Kensington. Just a block away, you'll recall, is the Oxford Mills project, which saw an old dye works building converted into apartments for teachers and office space for non-profits. There's also a pretty good coffee shop there.
With all the recent action on Front Street in Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and South Kensington, it's no surprise that people who own properties on this long underperforming stretch are hoping to cash out. One particularly sizable example can be found at 1523 N. Front St., between Jefferson and Oxford Streets.
Lots and warehouse
The large building on the site has been home to James Scollon's Sons Building Construction & Repair, though we're pretty sure they've cleared out by now. The look of the building suggests it was once a church, and historical maps confirm that United Presbyterian Church once called this place home. Now, it's for sale for $2.1M along with a collection of surrounding vacant lots. According to the listing, it's almost 7,000 sqft of land combined.
View up Lee Street
This property would seem to be calling out for reuse into apartments, surrounded by new construction mixed-use. The existing building would especially work for residential use, considering it doesn't butt up against the El. Oxford Mills, the adaptive reuse project across the street, does come right up to the tracks but has tucked the residences further away. Instead, their space on Front Street is reserved for offices.
Recently, we've seen some increased activity on Front Street under the El. The commercial aspect of the Oxford Mills project fronts Front Street. A former garage is being converted into a soup place across the street from El Bar. And three duplexes should soon break ground just above Girard Avenue. Today we zip further north, near the Berks Station and the Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and note a renovation that we can't quite understand.
In the past
1844 N. Front St. was a blighted building for years, like so many others on Front Street in this area. According to a thread on Fishtown.us, you could actually see the third floor roof pushing out the bricks from the station above. In 2010, a developer purchased this building and the one that's located immediately to the south. Both properties have benefited from some renewed attention in recent years.
In the spring of 2012, we first told you about plans from D3 Developers (a company that somehow doesn't employ anyone who was in any of the Mighty Ducks movies) to convert the former dye works at 100 W. Oxford St. into a mixed-use development called Oxford Mills. Back then, the building, which had most recently held a lamp design company, was sitting vacant and looking kind of rough. Today, it looks fantastic.
View from the west
Looking down Howard St.
This project is unique in that it specifically targets teachers. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, 60% of the 114 apartments in this building are available at discounted rates for educators. The remaining units are market rate. At this time, about three-quarters of the residential units in the building are leased.
In South Kensington, redevelopment is happening all over the place. New homes are replacing long-vacant lots. Old warehouses and factories are being repurposed into apartments and offices. And a couple of huge projects on the horizon promise to add a large number of residents and businesses to the area in the coming years.