Another day, another vacant Francisville lot getting redeveloped.
These days, it seems that you can't go a single block in this neighborhood without running into a contractors framing a building, pouring a foundation, or digging a new hole. Ridge Avenue is particular is seeing an explosion in development, with a bunch of mixed-use projects now under construction and more coming soon. We don't know exactly what businesses will fill all those retail spaces, but we do know that they'll need as many neighbors as possible to ensure success. Or at least viability.
So let's consider 1431 Brown St. as a prime example of the kind of project that will help Ridge Avenue get to where it needs to go.
1431-33 Brown St. has been sitting vacant for many years, owned by religious institutions since the 1950s. At some point in the last few months, developers bought the property and now they're proposing a ten-unit building here. This is a lot of density for what's essentially a double-wide lot, but why the heck not? Ridge Avenue is just steps away and as we said, the corridor needs as much density as it can get. And not for nothing, but North Broad Street is almost as close, with a Broad Street Line station less than two blocks away.
It isn't news that the neighborhood surrounding Temple University has seen an explosion of growth over the last few years. It seems like nary a month goes by that we don't have some news of a triplex here or a twenty-seven-unit project there. With all the construction in the area, you'd think that there's hardly any vacant land remaining and all of the blight has been renovated or replaced by now. And you'd be entirely wrong! Development has transformed many blocks near Temple, but some are still in pretty rough shape. Take, for instance, the 1500 block of Willington Street, which is only about two blocks away from campus.
Looking up the block
We were first drawn to this block by the vacant building right on the northwest corner of Willington & Jefferson. It's got amazing bones but it's in terrible condition. A sign on the facade advertises an auction for the property which happened in 2014. On the plus side, the buyers at that auction were Union Housing Developers who should eventually renovate the structure into affordable housing. On the minus side, the building looks like this more than two years after they bought it:
Finally, it seems that the southwest corner of Broad & Ellsworth is moving in the right direction. For those unfamiliar with this property, the adjacent Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine has for years been planning to extend their facility to this vacant parcel. Some years ago, they had a plan in place to renovate a former school building for this purpose, then in 2014 they produced a rendering of a new one-story building with a big surface parking lot in the back. We slammed this plan, lamenting the idea of a one-story building on this South Broad Street corner.
Thanks to William Penn really thinking things through back in the day, our city has been easy to navigate since before everybody had a GPS machine in their pocket. Of course, some areas can get a little tricky, with Francisville chief among the confusing neighborhoods that are close to downtown. For those that never noticed, a section of Francisville between Francis and Ginnodo Streets turns the grid on a 45-degree angle, tracking along Ridge Avenue. This not only makes it tough to identify addresses in the area, but it also creates a number of triangular lots. One such property, 1644 Francis St., has been sitting vacant for quite some time.
In the past
We passed this property earlier this week and discovered a triangular foundation. We don't see this very often.
As Pennsport continues to boom, developers have been building up Dickinson Narrows just to the west of the neighborhood. V2 Properties in particular has done a ton of work in this area, with projects on Mercy, Dudley, Emily, and Hoffman Streets, among others. On the 400 block of Hoffman Street, we see one such property which sold last year for $280K.
A new home on the 400 block of Hoffman Street
Around the corner from this home, we noticed a "For Sale" sign on a row of buildings on 5th Street. Considering all the construction that's happened in the area in recent years, we thought it might represent a development opportunity for somebody.
For Sale signs on the buildings
You can see, there are three buildings in a row which look alike, so we figured that all are available. We also suspected that the vacant lot at the corner, now housing a storage container, was also available. Checking the listings, we discovered that the corner isn't actually available and the buildings available for sale aren't actually an opportunity after all. 1907-1911 S. 5th St. were a development opportunity less than a year ago, when we believe a developer purchased them along with another building half a block away for a combined $350K. Now, each of the buildings are listed for $280K, or the package can be yours for $1.12M.
A reader recently directed our attention to some signs posted on a fence at 2717 Annin St., a property we actually told you about last fall. At that time, we had noticed some different signs on the little vacant lot, advertising that it was available for rent. The asking rate was a very affordable $350/month, but we were at a bit of a loss figuring out what could happen on at 708 sqft triangular lot on Grays Ferry Avenue. A new building seemed very unlikely, so we proposed a billboard (however you make that happen) or perhaps food truck storage.
The signs now posted at the property indicate that some kind of food service place is on the way. We first thought that the signs were advertising a place called Manual Treats, but upon closer examination we see that the place will be called Marval Treats.
The 2000 block of Gerritt Street has been in terrible shape for more than a decade, with vacant lots nearly outnumbering the homes on the block. Immediately to the south, the 2000 block of Wilder Street has held up much better, which is a weird thing when you consider that this block has nearly a dozen vacant lots. Still, the eyeball test gives you the sense that it's a mostly intact block.
Looking east on the 2000 block of Wilder Street
With new homes under construction at 2011 and 2013 Wilder St., this mostly intact block has lost two of its vacant lots. In the past these lots were especially overgrown, so this is clearly a step in a positive direction for the block. You can see that these new homes, like every other new construction market-rate home in the neighborhood, are rising three stories. Some would say that this is unfortunate, as the homes don't fit in with the rest of the block, what do you think?
Near 20th Street, two homes under construction
Around the corner, another home is under construction on the southeast corner of 20th & Wilder. This parcel has also been sitting vacant for who knows how long.
We've seen heaps of development close to Front Street in South Kensington lately, but today we turn our gaze to the western edge of the neighborhood. The last time we visited 6th Street, we had news of several multi-unit buildings under construction, improving a long-blighted stretch between Thompson and Master Streets. Clearly, developers are paying attention to these changes, as we just learned about plans for five new homes a block to the north at 6th & Jefferson.
View of the lot
This property has been vacant for many years, owned by the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises since the early 1990s. While it's possible that this project is being developed by HACE (public record doesn't show a change in ownership), we'd wager a new developer has stepped in with plans for market rate housing. This theory would seem to be consistent with the sign on the site advertising five new homes with prices starting at $325K.
There's a section of the 4600 block of Sansom Street between 46th Street and Farragut Street that's been rather bleak for at least the last decade, probably going back many more years. A single building on the south side of the block has survived the passage of time, with two huge vacant lots on either side. On the north side of the block, another vacant lot overlooks a gas station.
But things have changed dramatically as the student housing boom in West Philly has made its way here, and with considerable force.
Triplexes on 46th Street, foundation at the corner
We actually thought we wrote about this project before, but when we were researching our story from earlier this week about three new homes coming to 7th & Morris, we realized we'd never shared the news that new homes are coming soon to the 600 blocks of Moore and Pierce Streets. Currently, 617 Moore St. is a large vacant lot with a huge beer distributor immediately to the east and a bunch of homes to the west.
View of the lot on Moore Street
Beer distributor to the east
Homes to the west
As you can see, the lot extends all the way to Pierce Street. At the end of last year, developers presented plans to the ZBA for nine homes on this property, with four homes and a drive-aisle entrance on Moore Street and five more homes on Pierce Street. The design is pretty straightforward, though we'd bet that the homes splitting the drive-aisle are going to lay out suboptimally.