vacant lot

Block has turned around thanks to PHA auction

A little over three years ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority held a press conference on the 3000 block of Cambridge Street, announcing plans to auction off 400 scattered site properties. Included in that list were five vacant and blighted properties on the block. The press conference set up shop in front of 3020 and 3022 Cambridge St., which were in terrible condition at the time.

Press conference in 2011

Those same homes are looking much better these days. Like many other homes on the block, they've been sold to private developers, renovated, and resold to residents. 

Current view of those homes

A couple of homes on this block could still use some love, but the changes have been incredible in just a few short years. And some more changes are surely on the way. The western end of this block is a dead-end, separated from Fairmount Park by railroad tracks. But the homes end before the end of the block. We spotted zoning notices a couple of weeks ago though, suggesting that the end of the block will soon fill in some.

Years in the making

Almost three years ago, we first brought you to the corner where Titan Street hits Point Breeze Avenue, to a large parcel that's been vacant for many years. We shared, with excitement, plans for the redevelopment of this lot with a new mixed-use building. We wondered if this development, with thirteen apartments and a first-floor commercial space, would spur new construction in the neighborhood and on the corridor, and whether it would encourage new businesses to come to Point Breeze.

In the past, a huge vacant lot

In the years that have passed since we first broke news of this project, construction has indeed continued in the surrounding neighborhood. And a few new businesses have opened on Point Breeze Avenue, including OCF Coffee House, a new pharmacy, and Breezy's Cafe. But this property has continued to sit, embroiled in litigation. A few months ago, the lawsuit was thrown out and construction finally got started. Passing by earlier today, we discovered a building that's been fully framed to two stories, with work taking place on the third.

What's gonna happen next?

It was all the way back in the summer of 2011 that we first noticed 1201 S. 21st St., a blighted vacant building that had once been a launderette. In the 1950s, the building looked halfway decent, even if it was only one story tall. But in 2011, it looked like all kinds of crap.

Back in 1954
In the past

Three years ago, a commenter ran into the property owner at the site, and learned about plans to build a two-story addition on top of the existing building. Sometime after the above photo was taken though, the building was partially demolished, leaving only wood framing and an exposed foundation. It sat like this for years, occasionally getting a Stop Work Order posted on the property.

Looked like this for a couple of years

In recent months, we saw a sign on the property advertising its availability for sale. We never called, but we understand the asking price was $120K. Yeesh. According to public record, the same guy who owned the property since 1992 still owns the property, but we wouldn't be surprised if a new owner has stepped in (at a lower price?) and this hasn't yet been reflected in public record. We're guessing that there's a new owner because the property was finally demolished last week.

Across from future apartments

As Fishtown has continued to redevelop, we've seen a good mix of larger projects and one-off projects, sometimes even on the same block. On the 2100 block of Norris Street alone, we've seen the ten-home Norris Point project and an additional six homes get started a little closer to Frankford Avenue. On the other side of Frankford but technically on the same block, we recently came upon a one-off mixed-use building under construction at 2186 E. Norris St., replacing a vacant lot.

In the past
Framing underway

According to the permits, this property will have commercial on the first floor and residential above. It's encouraging that the developers would opt for a commercial use at this location. With Frankford Avenue just steps away, perhaps there's a belief that the good vibes from the corridor can spill over onto Norris Street, adding a slightly hidden retail amenity for the neighborhood. It's actually pretty consistent with the fact that the folks building this thing are the same ones who own the building across the street which is on its way to renovation.

But it's definitely coming together

The end of August was our last visit to 1919 Market St., a long vacant corner in Philadelphia's central business district that we've eyed repeatedly over the years. Remember, this parcel was, a few years back, the site of the first PHS Pop-up Garden. And when we last made our way to the site, the good people at Brandywine Realty Trust had finally broken ground on a nice-sized mixed-use building. We aren't coming back to this property today because they've made a noteworthy amount of progress; instead we're just relaying some new and more specific information that emerged yesterday on

But just two homes joining the party

20th Street between Titan and Wharton has seen some big changes in the last few years. At the corner of 20th & Titan, a single family home sprung from the ground on a lot that had previously been vacant for decades. This home has been joined by other new construction and rehabs on the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Titan Street. All the way at Wharton Street, two duplexes were built in the last twelve months which are occupied as rentals. These buildings also replaced vacant lots.

Looking south from Titan down to Wharton Street

As of a few days ago, this little stretch still had three vacant lots. But now that number has been slashed to one as construction is underway on two new homes at 1252-54 S. 20th St., immediately to the north of the new duplexes. When we passed by today, formwork was in place, suggesting foundations are on the come.

Formwork next to newer duplexes

Immediately to the north of the future homes is a two-story house that's in really bad shape. It's had several violations open since the end of last year, and we wouldn't be shocked to see it demolished by the City at some point. The lot next door to the home is owned by the City so it might be some time before it turns over.

Our patience is rewarded

Over three years ago, we wrote about the 13th & South intersection, hoping for change for the two southern corners. Slowly, over the last year, we've learned about plans for the Residence at Twelve40 and Katertown, two adjacent projects on the southeast corner which will eventually mean twenty-one new condo units and a fresh commercial space. This will obviously be a big improvement over the vacant lot we've seen here for longer than we can remember.

Southeast corner getting turned into...

With plans crystalized for the southeast corner and with a bunch of new people living a block away at the recently completed Southstar Lofts, it seems like a fait accompli that the long-vacant retail space on the southwest corner would finally find a tenant. Remember, this place was a tattoo parlor once upon a time, but it's been sitting empty for several years and the retail space was boarded up for a time. More recently, the glass on the first floor has been cracked and the space has generally looked like crap. Despite this, a business is poised to fill this space at last.

Surely they'll be more student housing

Between the summer just passed and the last, there's been consistent building along Spring Garden Street in West Philly starting the minute you cross over the Spring Garden Bridge. Closer to the Drexel and Penn campuses, numerous large-scale institutional developments have generally ruled the roost. But deeper into Mantua, smaller residential developments are sprouting up everywhere.

Right now the 3600 block of Spring Garden Street has a few different projects to speak of. For many years, 3614 and 3616 Spring Garden St. were vacant lots. The eastern parcel is now well into construction on a six-unit apartment building. The other, which was owned by City agencies for half a decade, was sold to developers last year and recently got approvals for a quadplex. We have little doubt that these units will be offered as student housing.

In the past
Recent view

The south side of this street is getting a couple of new construction properties whose architectural details don't compare to their neighbors. To drink in the way the standards have changed over time, we just need to look across the street.

It's so long for a big vacant lot

Over the summer, we brought you to the 1300 block of Mascher St., a block with mostly warehouses, a few homes, and a rather large vacant lot right in the middle. It seems likely that this parcel, 1326 Mascher St., was once a warehouse too, but those days are long gone.

Looking down Mascher Street
View of the lot

When we visited this block together, we told you that developers had appeared before the community with plans for twenty homes on this large parcel, and we hoped that they would get their needed approval from the ZBA. Turns out they got approval on the very day we wrote the post, and now the project is proceeding. Though groundbreaking hasn't happened yet, we were able to cull the pre-construction listings for some images of just what this project is gonna look like. Check it out:

Returning to a project we profiled a couple years back

The other day, we came upon an unfortunate looking building under construction in South Philly. We don't typically write about projects in this area, but the new triplex at 1930 S. 7th St. made us stop in our tracks to the point we felt we simply had to share. Here it is, in all its stucco-fied glory.

Recently built triplex

In other neighborhoods, we've gotten aggravated at the sight of a mere stucco bay window. But we can only recall a handful of other examples of an entire new construction building blandly wrapped in one color of stucco. We wonder, does a similar fate await the foundation just to the north?

Foundation two "doors" down

We actually told you about these projects a couple of years ago, but we had no idea that the buildings would look like this. Architecturally, it looks like they got some inspiration from the buildings immediately to the north.