philadelphia real estate

Across from the Kensington castled

There's a zoning notice posted on the northeast corner of N. Howard Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue that we foolishly assumed, at first glance, meant that developers were planning a new home at this corner. Immediately to the north are a pair of homes that were built in the last few years by Postgreen, and another home to cap off the block seemed entirely reasonable.

View on Howard Street

But we were entirely off base! It turns out that 1701 N. Howard St. isn't a small residential lot, but in fact it stretches all the way to Hope Street. Developers bought this 4,500 sqft parcel last summer for the low low price of $140K and are now planning to subdivide it into five lots and build five new homes. The property is only zoned for single family use and it's got an unusual shape, so the project will be getting numerous refusals and will need to go to the ZBA (hence the zoning notice). Still, this project seems entirely reasonable to us.

Major interior demo at former train shed

We never thought we'd see the day that development would come to Broad & Washington, but now that Lincoln Square has been under construction for several months, we're feeling cautiously optimistic that this project is actually happening. For those that just moved to town, the northwest corner of Broad & Washington has been sitting vacant for decades, with the exception of the historic Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Freight Shed. A year and change ago, the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development agreed to sell the property to a joint venture between the Alterra Group and MIS Capital LLC, a group that also bought the privately owned train shed. In relatively short order, the developers have gone from concept to permits to construction. And they're making pretty good progress.

The most dramatic part of the work has happened to the train shed, where construction crews have undertaken significant interior demolition and have removed the eastern exterior wall that wasn't original to the building. If you pass by the building during the work day, you'll see straight through to Broad Street, and you'll note that the building is now just an empty shell.

How did this lot come to exist?

There's a vacant lot at 318 N. 42nd St. where developers are looking to build something new. Ho hum, more student housing for this block, which saw three new homes go up a few years ago and is a stone's throw away from dozens of relatively fresh projects. So why do we bother bringing this little property to your attention?

The property

Looking up 42nd Street

A peek at the zoning application is the first indication that there's something unusual afoot. The application calls for two buildings- a single family home and a rear building with 6 apartments and 6 parking spots. Looking at the parcel from the street, this doesn't seem so possible. Looking at it from above, all is explained.

Surrounded by a bunch of new development

When we think of 3rd & Brown, the first thing that comes to mind is North 3rd, a Northern Liberties restaurant stalwart that's been holding down the northeast corner for a long time. We don't know exactly when this place opened, but we know we celebrated New Years there back in 2003 or 2004. Ah, memories. Now that we're thinking about it, we should probably get back there sometime soon, it's been a minute.

The fabulous North 3rd

To the north of North Third is a building that's got a demolition notice posted to its front. 807 N. 3rd St. is a relatively unassuming warehouse, aside from the fact that it's got inscriptions on its front that say 'N. Toconita Building' and the year 1935. Doing a wee bit of research, we learned this place was a bike company for many years, though we confess we don't know how it's been used more recently. Whatever the history, the building was sold about a year ago, with developers tied to Atrium Design Group paying about $850K for the property.

Rendering shows additional apartments as well

It was less than a week ago that we told you about some upcoming changes at 4th & Queen, mostly as an excuse to share the news that a new restaurant called the Bagel Place would be opening in a retail space on the southwest corner. A commenter (who also happens to be the chair of the QVNA zoning committee) was kind enough to provide some more color to our story, adding that the Bagel Place will have salads and sandwiches and that the owner wants to offer the "best bagels in Philly." Consider the gauntlet dropped, Philly Style Bagels, Spread, and South Street Bagels. Watch yer backs.

Bagel Place coming soon

Now let's turn our attention across the street, to the southeast corner. As we told you before, there was a zoning notice on this property but the application confused us and we weren't sure we'd see any actual changes from the street. KJO Architecture, the design professionals working on the project, reached out to us to clarify that we will indeed see some changes on the street, as Little Italy 2 will be growing and the apartments above will be expanded and renovated. This addition will happen in a small space to the south of the building which has traditionally been used for trash collection. KJO was also kind enough to send along a rendering that shows what the addition will look like at the end of days. Or perhaps just at sunset.

For the better, we'd thinkas

If we're being honest, we'll admit that the 1400 block of N. 28th Street isn't one of the best in Philadelphia. The west side of the block is actually in pretty good shape, with a row of mostly intact, mostly occupied two story homes. The east side is a bit of a different story though, with a smattering of three story homes mixed in with a bunch of vacant land. But things are changing quickly on this block, with two fistfulls (fists full?) of homes on the immediate horizon.

Current view on the east side

Most of the new construction on this block is coming from Argo Property Group, a developer that we've covered previously in Brewerytown. Recently, we covered their project on the 1200 block of N. 27th Street, where they're currently building a duplex, a triplex, and a pair of six unit buildings. On 28th Street, they're going in a different direction, opting for nine single family homes on non-contiguous lots. They're calling the project Brewers Mill Townhomes, and they've already started construction on the first few homes. 

Retail space and one residential unit

A couple of readers have reached out in recent weeks, wondering about the ongoing construction at 1425 Federal St., a building that was most recently the home of Mel Davis Used Cars. Just a few years back, when Mr. Davis was still doing his thing, there were two other auto centric businesses on the 1400 block of Federal, with Model Auto Body Co. and Dong's Auto Repair. Now only Dong's remains, as the Model building was demolished as part of an upcoming apartment project which we covered last fall.

In the past

If you visit this property today, you'll notice that it's under heavy construction. What gives?

Large rat keeping an eye on things

The Parker Spruce, at the northeast corner of 13th & Spruce, was built as a "bachelor hotel" in the 1920s, but as the decades wore on, it transitioned to a seedy hotel of ill repute. A Philadelphia Weekly writer spent a night there in 2006 and found the accommodations to be better than expected, and noted that the management of the building possessed at least a modicum of professionalism. Then again, at one point during the night, the writer got a whiff of what was more than likely a bunch of people smoking crack, so while it may not have been as bad as people thought at the Parker, there was still some illicit stuff going on over there.

A positive step for the area

A few months back, we brought 1805 Washington Ave. to your attention, noting that two buildings were being renovated and signage had appeared that announced a new restaurant called Chick's. A reminder, most recently, the western building had been home to a restaurant called Tasty Asia while the larger eastern building had been used as a produce warehouse. Those buildings have both gotten a major upgrade, inside and out.

In the past

Current view

Chick's officially opened for business a few days ago and since our office is so close by, we figured we'd dodge the raindrops and go check it out. Our first impression was that owners Philip and Gina Narducci did a very nice job with their restaurant- we're optimistic about its chances. The main restaurant is housed in the eastern building, with about 100 seats, 24 beers on tap, and a gastropub menu that runs from lunch to late night. We don't know whether sit down lunch business will be viable in the long term, but we understand that they'll eventually be opening a sandwich and take out beer place in the western building, which would seem like a slam dunk. The different businesses sharing a central kitchen would scratch two itches in this area, serving the take out lunch crowd as well as the dinner time drinkers.

On Callowhill Street, Not Columbus Blvd.

Over the weekend, we noticed a sign posted at the corner of Columbus Blvd. and Callowhill St., advertising a townhome project called Callowhill Court. And as we told you yesterday, we were concerned about this sign because we thought that it meant curtains for the Renaissance Plaza project, and we prepared ourselves for a sea of townhomes on the Delaware waterfront. After a quick conversation with one of the realtors listed on the sign though, we realized that the sign actually refers to a project happening at 10 Callowhill St., a property just around the corner. A one story building stood there until a few months ago.

View from a few months ago

Current view

Developers bought this 4,800 sqft parcel last summer and are now planning to build four homes on this property. And looking at the listings that went up recently, we see that these are gonna be some pretty impressive homes. The largest homes will clock in at 4,800 sqft, with 4 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, and 2 car parking. List price is $1.7M. A second home is listed for a mere $1.35M and will only have 3,600 sqft of living space and a 1-car garage. Check out these renderings to get an idea of what we can expect to see here.