philly real estate

May not be practical, but will sure be great fun

The Delaware waterfront was once a hub of industry, as ships delivered raw goods, factories produced stuff while belching waste into the river, and other ships collected the new stuff and took it away. That's not the case anymore, at least not in the vicinity of Center City. Still, we've maintained some relics of those long lost days, like the impressive and vacant Municipal Pier No. 9. This old warehouse is an extension of Cherry Street into the water, running roughly the same depth as the adjacent Race Street Pier. Municipal Pier No. 9 is owned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, and after achieving great success at Race Street, DRWC is looking to transform it into the Cherry Street Pier.

Current view

According to a press release, they've got some bold plans in store. While Race Street Pier is a lovely outdoor space used in a passive way, the vision for Cherry Street Pier is much more active. DRWC will reuse the existing building and divide the space into four separate concepts under one "roof." The Hub, a food and beverage space, and the Garage, a collection of reused shipping containers used as coworking and studio space, will be located near the entrance to the pier. In the middle of the pier will be the Platform, an open event space with a variety of purposes. At the end of the pier, the plan calls for the removal of the rooftop and the creation of an outdoor space called the Garden. Check out this site plan, to give you a sense of what we're talking about:

And more homes are coming soon

We've visited the 1900 block of E. Cumberland a couple times in the past, following along as new construction has filled in vacancy on the block. In the fall of 2015, we noted a pair of new homes at 1908-10 E. Cumberland St., from Callahan Ward. About half a year later, those homes were finished and two more homes were under construction across the street. As you can imagine, the block has seen some additional progress in the year since our last visit.

Less than two years ago

Same view, from Emerald Street, today

The most notable new construction on the block is the Suite Row development, which includes the five homes in the photo above. This project shows that contiguous homes are overrated, and it also includes homes around the corner on Jasper Street. Some of those gaps on E. Cumberland will get filled in, as two more homes are forthcoming as part of this project. As for the homes that have already been built, all of them have sold at prices between the high $300K's to low $400K's. We're digging on the white brick, and buyers seem to feel the same thus far.

Still close to what it looked like when it was built

Thanks to a reader tip, we visited 52nd Street earlier this week to investigate a potential student housing project in a building with some wonderful bones. It turns out the renovation wasn't aimed at creating residential units, but will instead result in a very large clothing store in a greatly improved building when all is said and done. As we were discussing that property, we mentioned that the Lincoln Theatre once stood next door, probably the reason it's known as the Lincoln Building. The Lincoln Theatre was demolished in the 1980s but we happened to notice a different old theatre very close by which has miraculously survived the ravages of time.

View in 1926, from Cinema Treasures

The Locust Theatre, on the northwest corner of 52nd & Locust, opened in 1914, according to Cinema Treasures, and originally showed a mix of moving pictures and vaudeville shows. By the 1930s, they nixed the live entertainment, and moved to movies only. In the 1970s, when many cinemas were closing their doors, the building was purchased by the Bushfire Theatre Company. The mission of the theatre company is to offer "greater opportunities to African American professional and non-professional actors, playwrights, directors and other theatre personnel." As a fringe benefit, the company has maintained this amazing building for the last forty years.

Sold for more than we'd have expected

At the northeast corner of 7th & Morris, developers built a trio of new homes over the last year, replacing a surface parking lot. We told you about the project when construction was just getting started, and if you visit the intersection today you'll notice that the homes are finished. One odd architectural detail, the corner home has a nice sized bay with some hilariously small windows. We get it, the bathrooms have to go somewhere, but it seems like a missed opportunity to add natural light to the home with two frontages.

Neighbors seem to have mixed feelings on the subject

It was almost four years ago that we brought the blighted building at 2539 Grays Ferry Ave. to your attention, lamenting its condition and hoping that it would get renovated or demolished sooner than later. A near neighbor first drew our gaze to the property, informing us that the building had been sitting vacant for at least a decade, that the rear wall had partially collapsed, and L&I had declared the building "unsafe." Somehow, the property remained in this condition until just a couple of months ago, when the building was finally torn down.

In the past

Current view

You'll note, there's a zoning notice on the chain link fence surrounding the property, which means that redevelopment is on the horizon. Reading the notice, we see that the proposal calls for a mixed-use building with a grocery store on the first floor and two apartments above. As the property is zoned for single-family use, this triggers several refusals.

Part rehab, part new construction

The property at 1328 N. 5th St. must have been very attractive in its heyday, but we couldn't tell you for sure because it's been sitting vacant and blighted for at least a decade.

In the past

The good news is that the surrounding area, like so much of South Kensington, has been on the dramatic upswing of late, with the reawakening umbrella factory being a keystone project. As the umbrella factory is just a few steps away form 1328 N. 5th St., it doesn't come as a surprise that the building is getting brought back to active use. The exact way in which it's happening though, is a little out of the ordinary.

Developers associated with Solo Realty bought the building back in 2013, as part of an estate sale. A couple years later, they purchased the vacant lot next door, which has been owned by a City agency. Combined, the properties measure 40'x100' and go street to street, which affords the owners a variety of redevelopment options. We'd have bet on demolition, but that's not what's happening. Instead, they've opted to renovate the old building at 1328 N. 5th St. and build a new building next door, combining them into a single residential building with 7 condo units. The design work, from Bright Common, is really quite striking.

Beer distributor next door still doing its thing too

It was a little over a year ago that we told you that developers had purchased the long vacant lot at 617-21 Moore St. and redevelopment was on the horizon. We shared the details of the project, that it would include four homes on Moore Street with two of those homes interrupted by a drive-aisle, and five homes to the north on Pierce Street. We even included a shmancy 3D rendering, to give you an idea of what kind of project to expect.

Rendering from about a year ago

Checking in now, we see that the project is moving forward. Already, all of the homes have been framed out, with a little more progress on the Pierce Street side. We figured that some of the homes would be listed for sale by now, but it seems the developers are waiting until the homes are a little farther along before putting them on the market. It will be fascinating to see what kind of prices they're able to get for new construction homes with parking in this area, and how quickly they're able to line up buyers. We'll also keep an eye on how much of a price cut the developers must make to sell off the somewhat flawed carriage house units.

And they're by right, too

We were traveling up Frankford Avenue the other day, after enjoying a tasty lunch at Steap and Grind, and we spied what looked like a construction site in its early stages on the 1600 block of E. Eyre Street. Behind the chain link fence, it looks like something was demolished sometime recently. But looks can be deceiving! It turns out, 1645 1/2 E. Eyre St. was just a surface parking lot.

In the past

In a case of looks being deceiving in quick succession, this property is way bigger than it looks. The previous owners only used a portion of the parcel for parking, even though it covers roughly 8,000 sqft. In this neighborhood, that's a whole lot of underused land. Oh by the way, the property is zoned for multi-family use, making it even more attractive for redevelopment. And wouldn't you know it, developers snapped up the property last fall, paying $1.3M even though it appears it was never formally listed for sale.

Farther west than we'd expect

There's been a staggering amount of new construction in West Philadelphia over the last several years, as developers have gobbled up vacant land or underused properties and built new student housing. Near Baltimore Avenue, we've started to see this development move past 50th Street. Farther north though, we can't think of much new construction past 46th or 47th Street. That's why we were so surprised to hear from a reader that spotted some major renovation activity on 52nd Street, north of Chestnut. Our mind immediately went to student housing, because that's pretty much all we ever cover when we write about West Philly.

In the past, 20 S. 52nd St. was home to an Olympia Sports location on the first floor, while the upper floors were boarded up and made the building look generally lousy. Still, the building had some great bones, with a notable feature being an old sign at the top that dubbed it the 'Nixon Building.' We don't know for sure, but we have to think that the building got this name because the Nixon Theatre stood next door for many decades, until its demolition in the 1980s.

In the past

If you visit the property today, you'll see that it's getting a major overhaul.

But not before a profitable flip

Every now and again, we pass along news of a sweet development opportunity and encourage anyone and everyone to consider taking advantage and making an investment. To give you a sense that we occasionally know what we're talking about, let's consider a recent example that worked out very well for a local real estate investor. It was a little over a year ago that we brought 1145 N. Delaware Ave. to your attention, noting that the 65K sqft waterfront parcel was going to auction with a minimum sale price of $3.6M. We shared some history, noting that a 168-unit project was sunk by the 2008 economic downturn, resulting in foreclosure in 2010. We also discussed the property's attractive location, right next to Penn Treaty Park, and its favorable CMX-3 zoning, which gives developers multiple by-right redevelopment options.

About a year ago

Aerial view of the property

In July of last year, developers purchased the property, paying $3.77M. Shortly after, they hired Abitare Design Studio to proceed with a zoning plan for 19 high-end 3,800 sqft townhomes, each with two car parking, elevators, etc. They even got a sweet rendering out of the deal.