The north side of the 700 block of Lehigh Avenue is home to a suburban style shopping center with a Save-a-Lot, a Family Dollar, a Kicks USA, and a Burger King. Generally, we wouldn't care for such a shopping center, as we prefer smaller businesses that are integrated into the urban fabric that don't include a sea of parking. From what we understand though, people who live nearby deeply appreciate the existence of this shopping center, not only because it adds amenities to the neighborhood, but because of what it replaced when it was constructed a couple years ago.
Current view from Lehigh Avenue
View from a few years ago on Lehigh Avenue
It was back in 2013 that we first covered this property, also providing the history of the site. Briefly, a gorgeous school was constructed here back in 1903 in the Collegiate Gothic Revival style, and this school eventually evolved into Northeast High School. As the condition of the school began to deteriorate and the neighborhood became more diverse, Northeast High moved to a location in the Northeast in 1957, taking along the school's history and most of its white students. The racially motivated nature of this move was not lost on the families that remained at the school, which was renamed Edison High.
Across the street from the Main Street UA 6 sits a collection of old industrial buildings that, until relatively recently, looked like they had been sitting abandoned for years. Workshop of the World tells us that this property, 3737 Main St., was home to the Wilde Yarn Mill, with the first building constructed back in 1884. Remarkably, the mill was still in operation, though in a limited capacity, until 2008. As we said, from looking at the property, you would not have expected this to be the case.
In the past
Over four years ago, we told you that a developer had designs on redeveloping the property to residential use, with plans for 45 apartments and 45 parking spots. Then it was radio silence on the property for quite some time. Sure enough, a new developer stepped in after a couple of years, purchasing the property from the previous group. The new owner, Barzilay Development, has plenty of experience in the adaptive reuse business, having converted the former Saint Matt's on Grays Ferry Avenue to the Sanctuary Lofts, among other projects. It was at some point within the last year that work got moving on the property, and the effort shows, especially with a staggering number of new windows.
Dranoff Properties has played a significant role in redeveloping South Broad Street over the last decade, with Symphony House, 777 South Broad, and Southstar Lofts all adding height and density to Philadelphia's most famous thoroughfare. Tonight, near neighbors will learn about another proposed Dranoff project, this time at the corner of Broad & Pine. The low rise building that's currently at the corner functions mostly as a parking garage, and has a Starbucks on the first floor. The building has been there for many years and has served a similar purpose over a long period, as these photos would indicate:
Back in the 1920s
Better view of the property from the 1920s
Remarkably, the building is still intact and looks pretty similar to the way it looked almost a century ago.
Thanks to roughly three decades of work from Mural Arts, Philadelphia possesses an embarrassment of riches in terms of public visual art. We're no fans of vacant lots or surface parking lots, but when they're adorned by a mural, we tend to find them much more acceptable (it's just when people argue against development in favor of keeping a mural that we get aggravated). Such is the case with the surface parking lot at the northwest corner of Broad & Race, which probably gets most of its use from the Convention Center across the street and Hahnemann University Hospital next door. The wall to the north of the parking lot measures roughly 12K sqft and constitutes one of the walls of Hahnemann's Feinstein building. Between 2006 and 2008, artist Donald Gensler held workshops to paint the Independence Starts Here mural.
The Graduate Hospital neighborhood is home to three garden blocks, the 2300 block of Saint Albans Place, and the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Madison Square. If you live in the area, you're probably aware of these blocks simply from walking around the neighborhood, and if you don't live nearby it's possible you remember seeing the 2300 block of Saint Albans as Cole's house in the Sixth Sense. These blocks are unlike any others in the city, trading pavers for sidewalks and fenced-in garden space for street. The combination of the streetscape and the uniform architecture of the homes landed these blocks on the Historic Register back in 1969 (Saint Albans) and 1971 (Madison Square).
Looking east on the 2300 block of Madison Sq.
The homes on these blocks date back to around 1870 and are collectively the work of developer Charles M.S. Leslie, according to Evergreens: A Neighborhood History. In creating the garden blocks, Leslie, who also built Woodland Terrace in West Philly, created a trust that allowed him control of the gardens and the alleys behind the homes, and he charged residents for maintenance of the shared space. Within a couple years of the construction of the garden blocks, Leslie disappeared in an effort to get away from his creditors, resulting in the City becoming trustee for the garden blocks. As a result, the residents of the 2200 block of Saint Albans were able to get their garden eliminated in favor of a paved street. Yes folks, the 2200 block of Saint Albans was once a garden block as well! What a loss, indeed.
125 N. 10th St. stands as a unique example of a building that has been designated historic both locally and nationally, even though its defining features only date back to the 1970s. According to the nomination to the local register, the building dates back to the 1830s, but none of the original facade is currently visible. T.T. Chang founded the Chinatown YMCA on the second floor of this building in 1955, providing services to Chinese immigrants as well as native born children of immigrants in what was then a growing Chinatown neighborhood. Chang purchased the building in 1966 and two years later the YMCA transitioned into the Chinese Cultural and Community Center. In an effort to connect the building to the heritage of the local community, Chang hired architect C.C. Yang from Taiwan to completely overhaul the building's facade to reflect the "Classical Chinese Style." This work was completed in 1971, and was the basis for the building being added to the historic registers. Looking at the building, it's hard to argue against its historic nature.
Market East was a commercial center in Philadelphia in the early part of the 20th century, but as the decades rolled along, increased competition from the suburbs and other factors resulted in a diminished status for this shopping district. The Gallery opened its doors in 1977, in an effort to beat back this phenomenon, creating a suburban shopping experience in an urban setting. And people were really into it! The first phase of the mall had Strawbridge's at its eastern end and a relocated Gimbels to the west with stores in between, and for for a time the mall was a major attraction. It was successful enough that a second phase was constructed in the mid-1980s, stretching the mall to 11th Street and connecting it to the (then newly opened) Market East Septa Station.
But if you've lived here for any length of time, you know how things went. It wasn't too long after the Gallery II opened that the mall started falling on hard times. According to a story on deadmalls.com, Gimbels closed in the late 1980s and mall patrons couldn't get from Gallery I to Gallery II on the upper floors. Clover eventually opened in the former Gimbels, but only on the first two floors, which resulted in snowballing vacancies on the 3rd floor of the mall. As the years went on, the Clover became a K-Mart, the JC Penney at 11th Street became a Burlington Coat Factory, the Strawbridges closed, and the mall took on a lower budget vibe. Combined with the fact that the building had absolutely no street presence, the Gallery has been long overdue for a major renovation effort.
The last few years have brought major changes to 4328-44 Ridge Ave., a property that we first told you about almost exactly three years ago. At the time, the property was listed for sale for $1.5M and we were hopeful that a developer would buy the 42K sqft lot and build something "big, dense, and residential." At the very least, we were hoping that whoever bought the property would change up the looks of the buildings on the site, as they resembled ugly ski lodges.
A few years ago
About a year ago, we told you that Overbrook Real Estate Investors had purchased the property and would indeed be converting it to a residential use in a project called Falls Bridge Lofts. The plan called for the renovation and reuse of the existing buildings on the site and the construction of a new five-story connnecting building with frontage on Ridge Avenue. When we reported on the property last year, construction was just getting underway. But when we passed by the other day, we noticed that the project is seemingly finished. And it looks pretty good.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that we drew your gaze to the 1800 block of E. Huntingdon St., noting a pair of triplexes under construction immediately next door to the Huntingdon El Station. In general, we find it surprising just how much development has happened so close to the El in recent years, but this new construction at Kensington Avenue was truly surprising. Today, we have news of a project in a slightly more predictable location, but with a much larger footprint. Please join us if you will, on the 1900 block of E. Dauphin Street.
A few years ago
This block is capped off by My Philly Pawn, the self proclaimed largest pawn shop in Philadelphia. At the end of the block is a community garden, and just across Emerald Street is Emerald Park. It's like we said, this block is a step up from the 1800 block of E. Huntingdon Street. Still, we wouldn't necessarily expect to see a ton of new construction on this block, but that's exactly what's happening.
As the Naked Philly mobile was struggling to make its way up Lyceum Avenue in Manayunk the other day, we spied five new homes under construction. For many years, 235-47 Lyceum Ave. was a vacant parcel, commonly used as an area for spectators during the Philadelphia International Championship bike race, but not much else. As the race was cancelled this year, the elimination of this lot wasn't such a big deal, but if the race makes a comeback, people will surely notice that a prime viewing spot on the Manayunk Wall is gone.