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.
As far as greater Center City goes, we've got a really good handle on neighborhood names, boundaries, and the different challenges of dealing with various community zoning committees. But when we head into West Philadelphia, we admit that our neighborhood geography gets a little shaky. And the farther west we go, the less we know. So we were pretty proud when, the other day, a reader told us about some upcoming construction on the 5100 block of Arch Street and we knew that this was in the Mill Creek neighborhood.
Except... it wasn't. It turns out that this block is, in fact, located in the Dunlap neighborhood. This tiny neighborhood runs from Market Street to Haverford Ave, from 49th to 52nd Street. Wikipedia says the neighborhood was named after the Dunlap School, which was converted into senior housing in the early 1990s. It also suggests that the neighborhood is "generally known for low income housing with household incomes generally below the poverty level" and that there are "many dilapidated or abandoned houses" in the neighborhood. And from our brief visit to the neighborhood, we have to say that it seems Wikipedia's onto something.
As for the upcoming construction, it's planned for a sizable vacant lot at 5110-5116 Arch St., and developers are planning a row of four triplexes. This will be a by-right project, so it has that going for it.
It was just a few months ago that we visited the southwest corner of 16th & Ogden to tell you about some new duplexes under construction from Stamm Development. At that time, there was construction fence at 830 N. 16th St., a new building at 834 N. 16th St., and a pair of new duplexes around the corner on Ogden Street. Checking in now, we can tell you that the entire duplex at 830 N. 16th St. is already under agreement at a list price of $800K. At 834 N. 16th St., one of the units sold for $392K while the other is under agreement at a price of $339K. On Ogden Street, two of the units are under agreement and two are still listed for sale. Clearly, this project is working out well for this developer.
Looking up 16th Street back in April
View at the corner in April
You can see in the images above that there's three vacant lots sprinkled in with the new buildings. We'll consider this progress, as the entire west side of 16th Street and the south side of Ogden Street were sitting totally vacant just a few years ago.
A little over a year ago, we checked in on the progress of the row of triplexes pictured above and noted another project in the hopper for this block. We showed you 1225-29 N. 7th St., noting that the building at 1227 N. 7th St. had been sitting blighted for many years while the vacant lots on either side were sitting empty for just as long if not longer. We told you that developers had purchased the three properties and were planning four triplexes. And we were optimistic that the project would move forward, since something similar was happening across the street. Alas, checking in on the properties a few days ago, we discovered that nothing has changed whatsoever.
About a year ago, we visited the 1500 block of Brown Street and noted that several projects were in the pipeline for the block, though most were not evident to the casual observer at the time. The most obvious project was happening at the northeast corner of 16th & Brown, where developers had just demolished a pair of buildings and had plans to construct a quadplex in their place. It took a little bit of time for the construction process to lurch forward, perhaps due to a permitting issue, but now you can see the new building has been framed out.
New quadplex at 16th & Brown
Moving to the east, when we were last here we noted two relatively new triplexes on the block. 1519 Brown St. was built around 2013, with units selling between $190K and $260K. 1517 Brown St. arrived on the scene in 2016, and those units sold between $220K and $320K. This gives you an idea of just how much the market has grown in Francisville in the last few years. Next door, developers are just starting to frame three more triplexes, where we have to think the units will sell at even higher prices.
Three properties on the 1900 block of Christian Street have been stuck in purgatory for the last several years, but it seems that a resolution has finally arrived. Turning back the clock, the Christian Medical Center made its home at 1929-33 Christian St. for a number of years, with stucco covering the first floor of the facade and vinyl siding on the upper floors. At some point the medical offices closed and the buildings were converted into apartments but aside from two-thirds of an amazing cornice, the properties still looked quite awful.
Several years ago
We checked in on these buildings in late 2014, after they were purchased by developers. As a first step, the developers removed the stucco and the siding, revealing the original facades that had been hidden for many years. As exciting as it was to see the old facades, it was at the same time very upsetting to realize just how badly the buildings had been butchered over time.
Chain link fence is a very important part of our job. When we're cruising around town looking for stuff to write about, the sight of chain link fence is often a cue that development is brewing. Often, without knowing anything whatsoever about a property, we'll snap a couple of photos of a chain link fence with a plan to later look at the L&I Map to see whether a new project is on the horizon. When we realized that every corner of the 10th & Mount Vernon intersection boasted some chain link fence, we figured we'd have strong chance of discovering something new. And we were correct.
We've been following incremental changes on the 2400 block of Coral St. between Hagert and Boston Streets in the last few years, as we've seen three new homes get built and some others get renovated. Just two properties remain vacant on this block, a City-owned property and a privately owned double-wide vacant lot that's been waiting for its moment in the sun. For the City owned lot, the status quo remains. But for the double wide lot, development should be happening very soon.
In the past
Current view from Hagert
You can almost see in the second image above, there's a zoning notice posted at 2425-27 Coral St., the aforementioned vacant lot. Here's a better look at what we're talking about.
It was just a few months ago that we happened upon some new construction at 1638 and 1640 N. 2nd St. after a less than successful visit to the nearby Mid-Century Furniture Warehouse. At the time, we told you that developers were filling in a pair of large vacant lots with four new mixed-use buildings, with a pair on 2nd Street and two more on Philip Street. The mixed-use was happening by right, and made some degree of sense on 2nd Street as it's something of a mixed-use corridor. But we were confused as to how retail would work on residential Philip Street.
New buildings on Philip Street
As some months have rolled by, the exterior construction on the buildings has proceeded pretty much as you would expect. But plans for the interiors are changing, per some relatively new zoning notices. The developers are looking to change the mixed-use buildings to triplexes, both on 2nd Street and Philip Street. This certainly makes sense to us, and we wonder whether this was the plan all along. If this was indeed the plan all along, it's an example of a method we've cited numerous times in neighborhoods heavy on student housing. This might be an even easier zoning lift, as the properties had been zoned CMX-2 but were rezoned to residential at some point since the permits were pulled.
Corner store turned hair salon turned dentist office
Across the intersection, at 532 Fitzwater St., we see demolition work is taking place. This building was surely home to a retail business back in the day, and you can even see that large window openings have been bricked up over time. For as long as we can remember, we've seen signs for the Democratic 2nd Ward on the building, but we couldn't tell you whether politicos were using the space every day, once a month, once a year, or ever. Suffice to say, nobody will be using it again as it will soon be totally demolished. Plans call for a four-story triplex in its place, which can be built by right.