We told you at the end of last year that Fishtown is losing Lou Wolff Auto, a used car dealership that's been doing business on Girard Avenue since the 1980s. That property is being sold and redeveloped, which definitely makes sense given the changes we've seen on the East Girard commercial corridor over the last few years. Still, it's probably a bummer for a) people who hate change, and b) people who liked the idea of buying a car from a dealership in Fishtown. But it seems the car dealership hole in the neighborhood will be quickly filled, at least according to a recent story from Philly.com.
We first visted the 1500 block of Parrish Street over five years ago, when we shared the news that the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale planned to buy a warehouse at 1521 Parrish St. and make their home there, moving from a space near Drexel's campus. Part of that plan also included the purchase of what we believe was once a stable at 1533 Parrish St., the demolition of said building, and the creation of a surface parking lot. But alas, that plan never came to fruition, the Boys Choir instead moved to a space near Broad & Spring Garden, 1521 Parrish St. got converted into apartments, and 1533 Parrish St. never got torn down.
Developers bought this parcel in May and are now pursuing a plan to build an apartment building here, with 24 apartments and 8 parking spots. It stands to reason that these units will target Temple students, like so many new construction projects on this side of Girard Avenue. On the other hand, we've seen some other projects that sit close to Francisville, but just beyond the border, attract non-student tenants as well. Certainly, most folks that end up living here that doesn't make a beeline for Temple will head south, toward Francisville, or east, toward the Broad Street Line. There's certainly not much happening on 17th Street.
Saint Mary of the Assumption, a Catholic Church located on a large campus at 171 Conarroe St. in Manayunk, closed its doors a little over a year ago. This came just a few years after the archdiocese merged Saint Mary's with the St. John the Baptist parish in response to dwindling membership and attendance. For people who grew up at this church, this was surely a tough pill to swallow. But this has been a common theme across the city, with numerous churches closing in recent years and the announcement of additional closings coming in today's paper. While the closing of Saint Mary's was tough for many former parishioners, it represented an opportunity for developer Jack Bienenfeld, who now has the massive property under agreement.
The ZBA approved a major residential plan last week at 1920 E. Orleans St., the former Willard Elementary School. We've covered a few projects on this side of Lehigh Avenue in recently years, but those have all been south of Frankford Avenue in Port Richmond. This project will be happening in Harrowgate, a neighborhood that doesn't generally come up in discussions about real estate development because there ain't much to disucss. As such, we were quite surprised to learn that the former school would be redeveloped.
View from Orleans St.
From Birch St.
Doing a wee bit of research, we began to understand the situation a little more clearly. According to Newsworks, Project HOME bought the property last summer for $400K. The permits indicate that they're planning to build a five-story addition in the former parking lot with 24 apartments and some office space. The existing building will be renovated and will contain an additional 33 apartments. The project will also include 11 parking spaces and 19 bike parking spaces.
We confess, we're amazed by all of the construction happening near Front & Race right now. About a year and a half ago, we told you about plans for ten homes at 120 Race St., then part of a surface parking lot located next to the highway. In general, these plans sounded okay to us, but we were somewhat bummed that the developers were opting for homes and not a condo building like the newish six-unit building at Front & Quarry. Checking in on this project today, you can see that the most of the homes look like they're approaching the finish line.
Ten homes at 120 Race St.
Looking up the drive-aisle at 120 Race St.
You'd think these homes would be listed for sale but we can't find any listings. Given what new construction homes are selling for in Old City these days, a price over $1M per home is to be expected, though we wonder whether the fact that I-95 is immediately next door to nine of the homes might have an impact on sale price.
We're on so many mailing lists. And perhaps because we get so many emails that are only of marginal interest, we end up ignoring most of them. Yesterday though, we got an email that caught our eye so we figured we'd share. It came from the 5th Square, a political action committee that advocates for good governance, better land-use, improved public transportation, and other stuff that makes and would make our city a better place. The topic of the email was the Guerin Recreation Center at 16th & Jackson, and more specifically it related to a proposed green space on its southern end.
In the summer of 2013, the developers made their case for this project in front of the Historical Commission, and the minutes reveal that most of the conversation revolved around whether the City agency had jurisdiction beyond making advisory comments. Ultimately the Commission decided that they had full jurisdiction and supported the project anyway. But as we told you shortly after, several near neighbors and members of the Mother Bethel AME Church across the street opposed the project and held a vigil to pray that the Historical Commission would alter their ruling. People were, it seems, mostly upset about the contemporary architecture and how it would fit in with the surrounding historic neighborhood.
When we took those photos, we also noticed a demolition notice at 1522-24 W. Girard Ave., a building around the corner. Interestingly the property the building sits on extends all the way back to Cambridge Street. According to an old listing, this property was most recently used for medical offices and a day care.
Demo notice on the building
This building changed hands earlier this year, as did the parking lot next door. The parking lot parcel is even larger than the parcel the building sits on, with about one and a half times the squarefootage.
The El is great if you're trying to get from place to place. It's not so great if you have to live or work underneath it. That's at least part of an explanation for why Front Street under the El has traditionally been somewhere between kinda crappy and totally awful. But times are slowly changing. With the explosive growth in Fishtown and South Kensington, development pressure has come to bear on Front Street and we're starting to see some real changes on this depressed street. Last month, for example, we told you about a new building that's under construction on the 1300 block that will hopefully give other developers good ideas in the years to come. New restaurants, like Front Street Cafe, are on the horizon. And an existing business has come up with a creative way to use a formerly vacant lot.