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.
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.
Carburetor is one of those words we've probably heard hundreds of times over the years and while we knew it was somehow related to car engines, we confess we had no concept of its function. But we live in the age of information, and thanks to Wikipedia, we now know that a carburetor blends air and fuel for use by an internal combustion engine. We also know that carburetors haven't really been in use for commercial cars since the late 1980s, replaced by fuel injection.
Philadelphia Carburetor and Ignition operated out of 1327 Reed St. since 1963 and while we never patronized this business, we have to think that they did more than carburetors, despite the name. Still, we have to think that business was better in the first few decades than in the last few decades. Earlier this year, the building was listed for sale and got snatched up by a developer in less than two weeks for a price of $465K. The developer is pursuing a plan to demolish the existing two-story commercial building and replace it with a pair of townhomes with parking in the rear. The project came before Passyunk Square Civic Association last month and got a letter of non-opposition, so we have to think it'll get approved at the ZBA.
For whatever reason, we tend to take 27th Street to get to Brewerytown. Our landmark for entering the neighborhood is the enormous vacant lot that stretches almost from Polar Street to Girard Avenue, and also a somewhat unusual looking home on the west side of the street. We wrote about 924 N. 27th St. way back in 2011, shortly after it was built, but somewhere along the line the owners swapped out paneling for stucco and now it looks a little more conventional than it did previously. Still, a stucco box on a brick pad isn't a terribly common design choice these days.
View from 27th Street
In the photo above, you probably noticed that there's some construction activity near this home. That construction is taking place at 2710 W. Harper St., a parcel we never would have expected to see get developed. A closer look at the property will quickly reveal why it seemed like such an unlikely candidate for redevelopment.
We couldn't tell you what purpose 334 N. 13th St. was originally built for, all we know is that this two story building has been home to a custom framing business for many years. At some point in its history, its windows were either eliminated or greatly reduced in size, but the original window openings have remained intact, so we can get a sense of what it might have looked like, originally.
View from a few months ago
We were heading north on 13th Street the other day, and we noticed that this building is getting a new two-story addition.
From a distance
Developers bought the building back in 2015, paying $550K. According to the permits, the building will have five apartment units and a vacant commercial space when the project is complete. We wouldn't have necessarily expected such a project to take shape here, but upon further consideration it actually makes some sense.
As we've told you on many prior occasions, 16' is the typical width for a new construction home. From time to time, you'll see wider homes, in the 17' to 20' range, in high end projects in desirable neighborhoods. 15' of width still works for a new home, 14' starts to feel like a squeeze, and 12' is the absolute minimum width for a new home. But the tight quarters in a 12' home tend to reduce the sale price pretty significantly.
In East Kensington, where ultra-skinny lots are the norm, we've seen numerous 12' homes get built over the last several years, and buyers seemingly haven't been getting scared away. One of the first such projects we covered went up in 2013 on the 2100 block of Hagert Street. Those homes sold in the mid-$250K range, maybe a 30% discount from what they would have sold for if they were of typical width.
Three homes, built and sold in 2013
We were in the neighborhood the other day and noticed that three more homes are now under construction on this block, also on 12' lots. These lots, along with three more vacant lots next door, are owned by the same developer and we would think they will follow this phase of construction with three more homes. We do wonder whether it might have made more sense to combine the six lots into five and build more typical homes, but they surely ran the numbers and made the decision they deemed most beneficial, financially.
It seems like every few days, we see a new story about the struggles in Kensington, where there's seemingly no end in sight to the opioid epidemic. Remarkably, East Kensington continues to experience one of the most significant development booms in the city, even though the neighborhood sits, at some points, adjacent to some of the most afflicted areas. As you might expect, the bulk of the development in East Kensington has occurred on the sides closer to Fishtown and South Kensington. But as we've covered a few times previously, there's still the occasional project at the northern end of the neighborhood.
We happened upon such a project earlier today, noting some new construction on the 1800 block of E. Huntingdon Street, immediately next door to the Huntingdon El Station. In the past, 1802 E. Huntingdon St. was a vacant lot, and 1804 E. Huntingdon St. was a vacant building.
In the past
A pair of new triplexes have replaced what was here before. And while they might not be the most inspiring buildings we've ever seen, it's such a surprise to see them built at this location that we're willing to just let it go.
A reader reached out the other day, giving us the heads up that the properties at 101-109 Ellsworth St. are listed for sale. The list price is $1.2M, and the parcel certainly could represent an interesting development opportunity. Developers have built new homes along the 100 block of Ellsworth Street over the last several years, and around the corner, the 100 block of Alter Street has filled in similarly. The parcel could accommodate 7 new homes, each 17'-wide, though such a project would definitely require a variance from the ZBA. Still, the market has proven that there's demand for new homes in this immediate area, with comps trading around $600K. Plus, Rizzo Rink is right across the street and everyone loves ice skating.
Properties for sale
Rizzo Rink under I-95
There are some immediate problems with this particular opportunity, and another problem may be lurking in the wings. The first problem is the price. We'd say the asking price is on the high side, maybe by a couple hundred thousand dollars. It's possible that some developers are able to build new homes with garages for less than we can, but we don't see the potential profit being worth the risk for this property at the current price.