Intuitively, you might expect that the block of 50th Street south of Baltimore Avenue would be a solid block, with a mix of housing and retail runoff from the commercial corridor. And you'd be correct! What's somewhat surprising though, is that this situation is a relatively recent development. If we look back just a few years, we see a couple of blighted buildings just south of Dock Street Brewing and further south, some former industrial buildings that looked rather underused and unloved.
In the past
Also in the past
As the years have gone flying by, times have changed. The owners of Dock Street purchased 705 and 707 S. 50th St. back in 2015, giving hope that these long vacant buildings would come back into active use. In the time since then, they've totally renovated 705 S. 50th St., opening Dock Street Cannery a few months ago. In the back, they put Dock Street beers into cans (hence the name). In the front, there's a lounge and tasting room that offers beer, cocktails, and small bites. If Great Caesar's Ghost knows what's best for you, you'll make your way over there sometime soon.
Next door, the permits call for retail sales on the first floor and office space above. We don't know what kind of retail to expect, but figure it'll somehow relate to beer.
The Frankford Chocolate Factory at 2101 Washington Ave. has been sitting empty for over a decade, and its potential redevelopment is of interest to a whole lot of people in the surrounding area. So it was no surprise that last night's community meeting regarding this property was incredibly well attended. We counted at least 150 people packed into the Saint Charles Senior Center, interested in getting an update on the property, and eager to give their thoughts on how it should get redeveloped.
View of the building from 22nd Street
The meeting started with a brief intro from SOSNA, and then Cecil Baker, the architect for the project, spoke for a few minutes about the history of the property. Mr. Baker indicated a desire to preserve the middle section of the building, which dates back to 1865 and forms an L-shape from east to west, as well as the smokestack building at the corner of 22nd & Washington. This would present a challenge, as preserving the historic sections of the building would leave a relatively small space for redevelopment on Washington Avenue. On the other hand, it would open up the opportunity to develop proper scale of skinny Kimball Street, replacing the blank wall that's been on the south side of the block since the 1970s.
Because our office is on Washington Avenue, we have the pleasure of seeing the Frankford Chocolate Factory just about every day. This building, located at 2101 Washington Ave., has been sitting vacant since Frankford Candy's last chocolate rabbit came off the line over a decade ago. A few different development plans came come and gone in the intervening years. Developer Tran Dinh Truong came up with a redevelopment plan in 2009 which got denied by the ZBA. Another effort to redevelop the property, this time in cooperation with architects Campbell Thomas, got approval in 2012. But Truong passed away only a couple months later, and the project didn't move forward without him.
Project rendering from 2012
A court order liquidation Truong's assets put the property on the market back in 2014, and by the end of 2015, new owners had stepped in, paying $8.5M for the property. But earlier this year, we noted that the building was still sitting vacant, and that signs had been posted to the facade, apprising firefighters of the fact. The following image is from back then, but it's still an accurate depiction of what's going on there. And that's to say, nothing.
Liberty Square under construction at formerly vacant lot
While Liberty Square represents a dramatic change, the opposite corner looks almost exactly the way it did five years ago. The bones of the building still look pretty solid, though the windows are all boarded up and some old metal security gates give the building a rather unwelcoming vibe. The building is listed for sale for $750K, and has been on the market since the end of last year. We feel as we did previously, that it could be a great development opportunity for the right developer, but the fact that it's been on the market for so long is evidence that we're correct in our belief that it's priced way too high.
South Kensington has seen all kinds of development over the last few years, and as we told you earlier this week, there are some pretty significant projects still in the pipeline. Through it all, the former Gretz Brewery at 1524 Germantown Ave. has been sitting vacant and blighted, a reminder of what so much of the neighborhood looked like less than a decade ago. We first wrote about this building years ago, noting that the brewery was founded as Rieger & Gretz Brewing Company in 1881, and stating our belief that the buildings had not been used since the brewery ceased operations in 1960.
Back in the day
By the end of 2012, the City had posted a demolition notice on the building, and we were worried that the entire compound would be torn down. Fortunately and unfortunately, the demo notice only applied to the building at the corner, which was demoed in 2013. Checking in on the property today, we see that aside from the demolition from a few years ago, it pretty much looks the way it did when we first wrote about it. And by that we mean it has amazing bones but looks severely distressed.
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.
We were walking around Queen Village over the weekend, on our way to get some tasty John's Water Ice, and noticed a big new building on the little 600 block of Fulton Street. This block is easy to miss, as it dead ends halfway through.
Looking east on the 600 block of Fulton
The projecting sign off the front of the new building at 602 Fulton St. caught our eye though, and we walked down the street to investigate. Upon closer examination, we discovered a four story building on a double wide lot with four condo units. A sign in the window indicated that V2 Properties is behind the project.
The developers are calling the new building "The Fulton," and have already listed the units for sale. Prices range from $425K for a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom unit to $700K for a 4 bedroom/3 bathroom unit. One condo, a 2 bedroom/1.5 bathroom unit listed for $465K, is currently under agreement. Given the relative lack of new construction condos in this neighborhood and the desirability of the nearby Meredith School, we imagine all the units will sell in short order.
A reader reached out to us today, frustrated about a trio of buildings on the 900 block of S. 3rd Street that have been sitting empty for a long time. 933-37 S. 3rd St. may sit across the street from the Southwark PHA homes, but they are also very close to some of the most attractive blocks in Queen Village.
Southwark homes on 3rd Street
Because of the Southwark homes, development has traditionally lagged on both the east side of 3rd Street and the west side of 5th Street between Christian Street and Washington Avenue. But we've seen multiple projects, large and small, on these blocks in the last few years, so these vacant properties certainly warrant an opportunity.
Ah, 325 S. 18th St., our great white whale. This property was the very thing that first piqued our interest in real estate over a decade ago, as we wondered how a building on one of the primest corners in town could be sitting blighted and crumbling. It was with some naivete that we started doing research on the property, thinking that nobody else had gotten the idea to try to buy the place over the years. Needless to say, we were not alone in trying to buy the place. And in failing to do so, we were in some great company.
We don't find ourselves reporting on too many projects in Fairmount, mostly because there aren't all that many projects to cover. A mature neighborhood, Fairmount has its share of rehabs and the occasional one-off project, but there haven't been many projects sizable enough for us to cover over the years. In fact, this is our first Fairmount post of 2017 and we're more than a third of the way through the year. So let's get on with it, shall we?