It seems like another vacant lot in Point Breeze will soon disappear. 1401-03 S. 20th St. has been empty for as long as we can remember, which admittedly isn't as long as many neighborhood residents, but still. A bench that's popular with riders of (really waiters for) the 17 bus sits in front of this lot, which means a bunch of people stare at it on a daily basis. Recently, a construction fence went up around it, signaling that construction could be imminent.
Two long vacant lots
Around the corner on the 1900 block of Reed Street, two homes are currently under construction and five more will soon follow. Remember, we told you about those projects just a couple weeks ago.
A couple of homes under construction nearby
For the southern lot, the developers, who have owned the properties since 2010, are planning a single family home. For the corner lot, permits indicate a first floor storefront with an apartment on the two upper floors. Forgive us for not being filled with confidence about the current viability of the corner commercial space. But we hope we're wrong.
Heading home after getting whooped again in kickball, it somehow seemed appropriate that we found ourselves on Mercy Street, a tiny block just north of Snyder Avenue. Heading down the narrow street's 400 block, we were not at all expecting to find three homes that had clearly been built very recently.
400 block of Mercy Street
Three new homes
417-21 Mercy St. sit on what were previously vacant lots which were purchased by V2 Properties a little over a year ago. If the name of that developer sound a little familiar, it's because we've mentioned a few of their projects before. Remember, they have a big project in the pipeline on Front Street in Northern Liberties, with plans for twenty-three homes. And similar to their Mercy Street project, at least in terms of building on a narrow block that's just north of a major corridor, they built five homes on League Street in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.
Despite a great run of redevelopment in the last fifteen years or so, Philadelphia still has its share of prominent vacant lots. The northeast corner of 15th & Chesnut, which could become a hotel, stands as one example. Broad & Washington, both the northwest and northeast corners, is another one. Today though, we turn our eyes to the northwest corner of 2nd & Race, in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Right in the middle of Old City and mere steps from the awesome Race Street Pier, this parcel cries out for mixed-use. Instead, we've got this:
Developers plans to build five homes on Gordon Street and three on Dauphin Street, moving around lot lines on this parcel which runs street to street. The project, designed by JKR Partners, will also include some demolition, and would animate an under-used Fishtown block.
The community vote at the July 15th FNA zoning meeting was sixteen in favor to fifteen opposed. Near neighbors were more strongly opposed than the community at large. According to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair, the high number of no's was due to parking because the proposal offered nothing in that department. According to Karp, there's a question as to whether the ZBA will even listen regarding parking concerns for this project considering it's not required by the code. The developers are only seeking a variance for lot size, and a minimal one at that.
It wasn't so long ago that 17th Street between Carpenter and Washington was pretty much the worst block in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. For years, a small collection of burned out husks of homes dominated the streetscape. After L&I was kind enough to demolish the blight, the block was left with a single occupied home and a couple dozen vacant lots.
Thankfully, the Carpenter Square project has gone a long way toward bringing the block back to life. Thus far, the developers have built eleven high-end homes, some of which are still available for sale. Now, they're working on the second phase of the project at the corner of 17th & Carpenter, which will include six condo units, a commercial space, and a courtyard. Like CPR, this project has breathed new life into this block. But a huge vacant lot remains on the west side of the street.
If you're traveling through Grays Ferry, you might come upon a wonderful old building at the corner of 28th & Morris. That's the former Anthony Wayne School, which several years ago was converted into affordable rental units. The building still strikes an imposing figure, with its exterior architectural features thankfully preserved.
Anthony Wayne Apartments in the former school
Once upon a time, the school and its playground and parking lot took up half a city block. What used to be the playground, according to CBS Philly, at the corner of 27th & Morris, has been a vacant concrete lot for many years. And it wasn't exactly adding anything to the neighborhood.
Two new homes, all framed out. Beautiful. In a few months, they'll be completed homes and we imagine they'll be snatched up like most of the new construction in the neighborhood. Notice the vacant lot next door which stretches up Opal Street? Perhaps you remember, we touched on this parcel over the winter, when it was a snow covered meadow. Like the lots next door, it's also on the outs.
Looking up Opal Street
In case you've forgotten, there's plans for five new homes here, with two fronting Reed Street and three more fronting Opal Street. Just last week, the project got approval from the ZBA. So look for those homes to get underway pretty soon. Design work for the project was done by GJDesign & Architecture.
The 2700 block of W. George St., which runs between Cambridge and Poplar Streets, is pretty desolate. It's got a bunch of vacant lots that people park on, and nothing by way of buildings with the exception of a small section of a warehouse that fronts 28th Street. The reason for all this vacancy, we would posit, is that most of the land on the block is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Are there plans for PHA to build a bunch of homes on this block? We're gonna go ahead and say no. So why would they hold onto these parcels since the late 1960s? Search us.
Despite the overwhelming presence of PHA-sponsored vacancy on the block, some of the parcels are privately owned. And it's on a few of those privately owned parcels, 2730-36 W. George St. (or thereabouts), that a couple of new homes have appeared.
Two homes on an island
Aside from building on a block with no other homes, the developers faced some additional challenges. For one, the lots on the block are tiny, with those pictured above measuring only twelve feet across and and about thirty feet deep. With that in mind, the developers have combined the lots, creating double-wide but still not very deep homes. Despite the unusual layout of the two homes, we imagine they'll be pretty nice when they're finished and should find buyers relatively easily.
Back in May, we told you that the 2014 PHS Pop-Up Garden would be appearing on the 1400 block of South Street. We've been foaming at the mouth in anticipation, and now the wait is over at last. Remember, this was a godforsaken vacant lot just a month ago (and for like the past twenty years), and the Horticultural Society has done their usual bang-up job in turning it into a temporary green slice of heaven in the city. We visited the other day, and snapped some photos for your enjoyment:
Two winters back, we brought the construction of a duplex at the corner of 11th & Wallace to your attention. At the time, we were pleased to see that the long vacant lot was being filled, and lamented the fact that the surrounding lots remained undeveloped. There was also a vacant former bar on the block crying out for demolition or redevelopment.
Recently built on the corner
Passing by over the weekend, we discovered that the duplex is complete, but it looks kinda bad. The stucco bays (which don't look any good the minute they're installed anywhere) look like they're already cracking. Somehow, somebody bought this building for $470K last September. As you can see in the photo above, there's construction going on next door.