vacant lot

Mixed-use building planned on the 4900 block of Baltimore

We've been following the story of the Greensgrow Farms expansion into West Philly for over three years, and the latest chapter might be the most exciting one yet. Initially, Greensgrow planned to move to a long vacant lot at the corner of 51st & Baltimore, even holding a community meeting to discuss the possibility. That property fell through, and about two years ago Greensgrow West opened at 4912 Baltimore Ave., a vacant lot in the middle of a vibrant retail block. There had been a building here previously which was home to Elena's Soul restaurant, but it unfortunately burned down in 2012. Last year, we told you about plans for Greengrow to move to a larger space at 5123-39 Baltimore Ave., a vacant City-owned parcel. And earlier this month, they made their move to the new location.

Now we're looking at 7th Street

Just a few days ago, we told you about six homes planned for 1500 N. Randolph St., and at the same time pointed to two other projects nearby. This clearly inspired a couple of readers in the neighborhood, as they quickly brought our attention to some additional construction a block away, at the northeast corner of 7th & Jefferson. Three lots sat vacant for many years at this corner, but now we see that developers have framed out three new buildings.

NE corner of 7th & Jefferson

Looking at the permits, the northern properties are duplexes and the developers are going to zoning to get approval for a duplex at the corner. It's a little unorthodox to be going to the ZBA for a use change in the middle of construction- perhaps the original plans had the corner property as mixed-use since it's zoned CMX-2, and the developers quickly realized that new construction retail is totally out of the question here. Or maybe this was always the plan, who knows. Looking at the shuttered bodega across the street, you can see why we're not so optimistic about retail here.

Parcel has been vacant for eighty years

Well this is something different. Just about every construction project we cover involves a developer buying some land, building a building of some kind, and moving forward with an effort to either sell or rent out the property. But at 1506-08 E. Palmer St., that's not what's happening at all. Instead, the Grupp family purchased this parcel and are going to build a single-family home on the property that they'll use as their family home.

View of the parcel from Palmer St.
View from Memphis St.

The Grupps have taken the unusual step of setting up a website that describes their plan. And they've really done their homework. On the website, they've compiled information about the former residents of this address, archived zoning plans for the property, and general information about the rest of the block. From what they can determine, a fire occurred at this property back in the mid-1930s, destroying some very old wooden homes. And the parcel has sat vacant ever since, despite waves of construction that continue to this day. For example, the Reach Baseball Factory across the street was nicely rehabbed just a couple of years ago.

Nobody cares about being close to the viaduct, it seems

In neighborhoods like Callowhill or West Poplar, it's not such a big deal to live near the viaduct since it's 1) no longer used by trains, and 2) turning into one what will be one of the coolest parks in Philadelphia. In Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, not so much. Until a massive repair effort began last year, the 25th Street viaduct was crumbling, occasionally dropping chunks on concrete on lucky passersby. CSX uses the viaduct daily, with trains occasionally stopping for extended periods. As a result, we don't see a park blooming here at any point in the near or distant future. Eventual demolition is probably the best hope, and realistically that may not happen in our lifetime.

View of the viaduct from the 2500 block of Ellsworth Street

Despite the unpleasantness of the 25th Street Viaduct, some developers are still eyeing properties nearby, with a twenty-eight unit plan on the 2400 block of Federal Street being the most significant at this moment. The 2500 block of Ellsworth Street presents some activity on a much smaller scale, as we see three one-off projects all under construction at this time. First, we look first at 2532 Ellsworth St., where developers are rehabbing a two-story home. They're doing a nice job, removing a coat of red paint that was hiding many of the original details on the facade. Other developers are building a duplex on at former vacant lot at 2536 Ellsworth St., it's a similar situation a few doors down at 2042 Ellsworth St.

Don't even try to drive on some of these blocks

We told you about a four-home project on 2nd Street in Pennsport a few weeks ago, and mentioned in passing two more homes under construction nearby, across the street from Herron Playground. At the time, we thought we were providing an update on that project, foolishly thinking we'd mentioned it before. Upon further review, we never have!

Upon further review... Mr. Fox has a terrible memory!

So here's the skinny - developers bought 1333-35 S. 2nd St. at the end of last year, paying $450K for the pair of lots that go all the way through to Hancock Street. They've wisely subdivided the lots and are now building four homes here, with two on 2nd Street and two more on Hancock Street. Two of the homes are already under agreement and one of the Hancock homes is currently listed for $470K. Each home has 2,500 sqft of living space, with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. And as we said, they have very easy access to a playground, a huge benefit for somebody with young kids.

One property is already under construction

We spied a new hole in the ground in South Kensington, and another one could soon follow. We've visited the intersection of 6th & Thompson several times over the last few years, noting a few different projects to the north on 6th Street and a rather cool looking building on the northeast corner. In addition, we've brought the large vacant lots on the northwest and southwest corners to your attention, speculating that they'd eventually get redeveloped.

Cool building on the northeast corner, some newer buildings to the north

That new hole is located on the southwest corner. Developers bought these lots about a year and a half ago, and according to the permits it looks like they're building three new duplexes. This is in a similar vein to the other projects we've seen nearby, as many of these parcels are zoned for multi-family use.

Filling in three vacant lots

The three lots at 613-617 N. 11th St. have been sitting vacant for quite a long time, remaining in this state even as numerous projects have popped up on surrounding blocks in the neighborhood. When we went past these properties the other day though, we found that the situation had changed.

In the past
Current view
Closer look

Looking at the trail of public record, it appears that all three of these properties were owned by the City of Philadelphia at one point, though a neighbor on the block purchased them over the years. 613 N 11th St. was bought in 1987 at a nominal price, while the other two properties sold a little over a decade ago, each for $45K. If we're reading public record correctly, it appears as though developers bought the three properties about a year ago, paying $180K for each. Uh, that's a pretty strong return right there. Now the new owners are well on their way to building three quadplexes, and we'd guess the units will be offered as condos.

More vacant lots turning over in East Kensington

We wouldn't say that vacant lots are becoming an endangered species in East Kensington, not by a long shot, but the IUCN might consider them to be "Vulnurable," or at the very least "Near Threatened." Today we look at some fresh examples of the disappearing East Kensington lots trend, this time near Amber Street. New development has spiked in this neighborhood in recent years, and with significant projects now happening past Emerald Street, it's a bit of a surprise to find ourselves in this part of the neighborhood. But here we are, with some holdover vacant lots fading away.

Foundation at 2086 E. Cumberland St.

Our attention was drawn the other day to the intersection of Amber and E. Cumberland Streets, where developers have poured a foundation at 2086 E. Cumberland St., with framing looking imminent. The permits aren't clear what's happening here, but we'd expect either a duplex or a triplex, as the property is zoned for multi-family use and it's a pretty nice size. At first we thought that the garage next door was somehow included in this project, but we were mistaken. But recognizing the demand for land around these parts and the fact that a little garage isn't the highest and best use for this property, we'd bet it'll turn over at some point. Speaking of turning over, the vacant lot on the other side of the foundation, at 2088 E. Cumberland St., sold to developers two years ago and it's a good assumption that it too will get redeveloped sooner than later.

A total of eighteen units are coming here?

A row of properties near the intersection of 3rd Street & Cecil B. Moore Avenue has been sitting vacant for a long time, surely for many years before Google started recording images in its Streetview function in 2007. This should come as no surprise, as this neighborhood was in bad shape for quite awhile, though it's been undergoing a major transformation in the last half decade or so. Much of the new development in the area has been concentrated on the southern and eastern sections of South Kensington, but we've seen added interest of late in the north, like this project on Berks Street, and in the west, like this project at 6th & Jefferson. So of course, now there's some construction activity on the 300 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, which a reader was kind enough to bring to our attention the other day.

Corridor is completely turning over

The incredible transformation of Ridge Avenue is Francisville is probably one of the biggest development stories in town over the last few years, but somehow it seems like it's been flying under the radar. Many decades back, Ridge Avenue functioned as a neighborhood commercial corridor, creating an environment where residents were able to fulfill virtually all of their shopping needs within a few blocks of their homes. If you turn back the clock just a few years, Ridge was but a husk of its former glory, overrun by empty storefronts, blighted buildings, and vacant lots.

Today the corridor is seeing an amazing revival, with new mixed-use buildings on almost every block. While most of the new retail spaces still remain unoccupied, developers are clearly betting that a growing Francisville will have a large appetite for retail on Ridge Avenue in the near future. As the current batch of projects are moving toward completion, there's another wave on the horizon.