Old City and Northern Liberties are both great places to live. The former has seen an explosion in high-price-point development, with dozens of mansions springing up on former surface parking lots. And let's not forget the long awaited and finally happening Bridge on Race Street project. The latter, meanwhile, had the "up and coming" label for years but we'd tell you that the neighborhood arrived quite some time ago. We've seen countless residential projects in Northern Liberties, along with steady improvement to the 2nd Street commercial corridor. These neighborhoods are adjacent to one another but it's rather unpleasant to walk between them because of the combination of the Vine Street Expressway overpass and the desolate stretch between Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets. A new project at 4th & Callowhill will seek to better knit these neighborhoods together.
Abbotts Square is a gargantuan building compared to its neighbors on the eastern end of South Street. Developed in 1982 by Jack W. Blumenfeld, it carries many design markers that make its era of construction fairly evident. As we walked by the building this past weekend during Oktoberfest on South Street, we couldn't help but notice some construction signs in the parking garage 3rd floor of the building, so we decided to do some research.
Notice the Domus signs
Being naturally curious about every property in Philadelphia, especially those that are such an integral part of an old commercial corridor like this one, we decided to visit phillyhistory.org to see what the area looked like before this building existed, and we discovered this photo from 1930:
Looking west from 2nd & South in 1930. Note that the Bridget Foy's building is the same structure today.
When you cross the Delaware River on the Ben Franklin Bridge, one of the first exits takes you down 8th Street through the edge of Chinatown. Since the 1960s, a large parking garage has spanned 8th Street between Arch and Filbert Street and it's pretty much looked terrible since the day it opened. Here, take a look:
View in the past
We learned a couple of years ago that the PPA, which by the way owns the garage, was planning to renovate the exterior and its dank underbelly and we were hopeful, but appropriately skeptical. We just couldn't wrap our minds around the idea that this garbage building could possibly turn into something attractive. But we've gotta say, with the project seemingly complete since our visit last year, we can see that they actually did a pretty good job. The garage now looks extremely cool thanks to "veils of metal mesh and glass with screening made of glass louvers."
Getting in the ground for the Museum Towers II project took quite some time, so it's a little jarring to see that construction is moving along so rapidly. It was back in 2012 that we first told you about plans to replace a surface parking lot between 18th & 19th, Buttonwood Street & Mattias Baldwin Park with a residential tower and some homes, but it was two years before the project even went before Civic Design Review. Finally, last summer, we discovered that developers Forest City had started construction, with a pile of fresh dirt announcing that the project was underway.
Passing by last week, we discovered so much progress.
Market East is getting another major development, thanks again to the efforts of Brickstone Companies. Years ago, this company was perhaps best known for their renovation of the Wanamaker Building on Market Street. But more recently, they've been actively involved in multiple projects in Market East. On the 1100 block of Chestnut Street, they're in the middle of a combination new construction/renovation project which will have 115 apartments and a bunch of retail, including a Target. They have plans to renovate the Sound of Market building into a mixed-use project with ground-floor retail and creative office space. And for their next trick, they've got plans for a parking garage at 12th & Sansom.
Current view at 12th & Sansom
If you consider the location, it's clear that this two-story garage is a major underuse. For decades, the property was owned by famous slumlord Samuel Rappaport, and late last year his estate sold the property to Brickstone for a hefty $14.45M. According to the Inquirer, the company is still figuring out their plan for the property, but they're considering building two towers on the site which could each rise over 300 feet. Options include residential, office use, hotel, and retail.
For the thirsty hordes that typically descend on Manayunk every weekend, a project currently under construction has slightly diminished the parking options. Previously, 4304 Cresson St. was a parking garage. Considering its location underneath the rail tracks, this seemed like an extremely reasonable use for this big old building. Incidentally, a public swimming pool was located here at least until the 1960s, so it's possible the building wasn't so old after all.
In the past
But that's pretty much an academic conversation at this point since the building is all but demolished. A new building has risen from its ashes.
Cruising along Delaware Avenue away or towards Fishtown, you'll (likely) notice a construction crane splicing up into the sky next to the Sugarhouse Casino. Workers broke ground last summer and according to a Sugarhouse spokesperson, construction is proceeding as expected. Last week, we spied a new parking garage laying its shadow across the Delaware River. The $164M expansion, all to the north of the original structure, will more than double the square footage of the casino. A temporary poker room has been in operation for awhile, but a permanent one is coming once the construction is over.
Can see the parking structure from across the street
Directly across the street, Core Realty's plans for a mega entertainment complex where Frankford Avenue hits Delaware Ave. is progressing. The music venue aspect of the project, the Fillmore Philadelphia, has booked Hall & Oates for their grand opening celebration on October 1st. It looks like quite a bit needs to happen between now and then.
Have you ever driven into town on the Ben Franklin Bridge and decided to take the 8th Street exit? If you've taken this route, you've probably noticed the horrendous parking garage that covers 8th Street between Arch and Filbert Streets.
Over the weekend, we got a tip from a reader about 2028-34 Rittenhouse Sq., which is currently used as a parking garage.
The three story building looks like it was once a warehouse of some kind, though we couldn't tell you exactly what it was originally built for. Over the past several years, as we mentioned, it's been used as a parking garage. But people who use this property to store their cars recently got notice that the garage is closing down at the end of the year.
Signs on the building
The garage's closure is, according to signs in the window, due to an upcoming development at the property. But we don't know what's going on. Permits have been pulled for minor masonry work and the removal of an underground tank, but that's no indication of whether the building will be renovated to accommodate residential uses for example, or demolished and replaced with something new. Has anyone in the neighborhood heard about what's planned for this property?