The property at 2500 Reed St. has been sitting vacant for at least a decade, and while our memory doesn't go back much further for the property, we'd think that it was used for some kind of industrial purpose in a previous life. This makes sense, since it sits right next to the CSX tracks and industrial is quite consistent with most of the other buildings that immediately surround the tracks. Plus, the fact that the 166K sqft parcel is sitting entirely empty would seem to suggest that one or two buildings once stood here, not a collection of homes. Two points for anyone that can remember what used to be here.
But enough about the past, let's talk about the present. Specifically, today we'd like to bring it to your attention that this property isn't sitting entirely vacant anymore. To wit, it's looking much greener these days. We passed by recently and noticed a whole bunch of raised garden beds. And while we don't necessarily regard this with the same energy and enthusiasm that we would a large scale mixed use development, we can still appreciate that the greening of this parcel represents a major step up from its previously vacant state.
We told you at the end of last year that Fishtown is losing Lou Wolff Auto, a used car dealership that's been doing business on Girard Avenue since the 1980s. That property is being sold and redeveloped, which definitely makes sense given the changes we've seen on the East Girard commercial corridor over the last few years. Still, it's probably a bummer for a) people who hate change, and b) people who liked the idea of buying a car from a dealership in Fishtown. But it seems the car dealership hole in the neighborhood will be quickly filled, at least according to a recent story from Philly.com.
South Broad Street between South Street and Washington Avenue is on the rise, though its ascent has been rather slow and uneven. When 777 South Broad arrived on the scene a little less than a decade ago, bringing almost 150 apartments and a number of new retail spaces to the corridor, we were hopeful that we'd see other development crop up in a similar vein. But it's been a dry spell until quite recently, when construction started humming along at Lincoln Square on the northwest corner of Broad & Washington.
As for the rest of this stretch of South Broad, it remains a mix of unimpressive uses, with numerous one-story commercial buildings and a variety of vacant lots. We've had our eye on one of those vacant lots, 740 S. Broad St., for several years, hopeful that a developer would come forward to build something new and exciting.
For someone that doesn't know the history, the construction of the Bridge on Race project at the northwest corner of 2nd & Race is nothing special, just another example of the recent development boom in Philadelphia. But for those that have followed the history of the property, it still seems kind of incredible that it's actually happening and remarkable that it's now approaching the end of construction. In short, the project was in the works for about 15 years and took a number of turns along the way, finally breaking ground about a year and a half ago. When we checked in over the summer, we saw that construction had zipped along nicely after the first year. As you might imagine, more progress is apparent today.
Toward the end of 2012, we noticed some 'For Sale' signs posted at a vacant lot at 1312-16 E. Passyunk Ave., and were even kind enough to share this info with the world, with the hope that someone would purchase and redevelop these properties. It may have taken a few years, but developers finally bought these lots and are now trying to find a way to build a project that makes sense with their $600K purchase price.
If your Passyunk Avenue mental geography isn't so great, we'll help you out by telling you that these properties are located just around the corner from Wharton Street and sit just south of Pat's and Geno's. Despite a location so close to a retail mecca though, these properties are zoned for single-family homes.
The property, a couple years ago
Looking up Passyunk Ave.
Three new homes would work here, though we'd contend that the location is just a hair too close to tourist central to really get the needed sale prices. We lived a block from here many years back, and the crowds weren't so bad, but the sauteed onion smell was pretty constant. Ah, the memories. Wait, where were we?
A decade ago, when the Graduate Hospital neighborhood still had more than its fair share of blight, the sight of a vacant building didn't really cause anybody to think twice. Today, it's a different story, with demand for homes in this neighborhood at an all time high and developers vying for an increasingly short supply of potential projects. This was pretty much the case a couple years ago too, when we wondered about the vacant building at the southeast corner of 15th & Fitzwater. Here's a look at the building in 2009, to give you an idea of why it caught our attention:
The view in 2009
The property is owned by the family that owns the Slater Funeral Home, located next door on the 1400 block of Fitzwater Street. They acquired the property over 35 years ago, but we couldn't tell you what kind of condition it was in back then. Perhaps in response to a violation, the owners installed some actual windows a couple years back to make the building seem less vacant, but we're pretty confident that it has remained empty in the years since then. But that situation seems to be changing.
If developers and the community can get onto the same page, South Kensington could soon see another big project arrive on the scene. Currently, 1712-28 N. 2nd St. is home to a large one-story industrial building and a similarly sized vacant lot that's about 25% filled with junky cars. If you visit this property, you might think that it also includes a large vacant lot to the north, as we did, but you would be mistaken, as we were. These properties stretch all the way back to Phillip Street, a side street that curiously dead ends at some concrete barriers at the northern property line and then picks up again a few feet later.
We were scanning the zoning calendar the other day, and discovered some upcoming development planned for the 1900 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Currently, 1913-1919 Cecil B. Moore Ave. is a vacant lot that's about 6,000 sqft in size with mixed-use zoning. Developers purchased the property a few years back and are now looking to build a purely residential building with 24 apartments which will ostensibly target Temple students.
Large and snow covered
We haven't seen much student housing development this far west on this Cecil B., though there's one prominent example in a stucco-clad development that went up at the northwest corner of 19th & Cecil B back in 2012. This building is especially depressing because it sits immediately next door to the Temple of Praise Baptist Church, a handsome building that was originally built over a hundred years ago as the Vogue Theater. Let us hope that the planned project on the western side of the church doesn't take any architectural cues from the buildings to the east of the church.
Just up the street from our office, we recently noticed a new foundation at the northeast corner of 20th & Kimball. Since we pass by this intersection just about every day, we don't typically think about the changes that have happened here over the last number of years, but seeing the new foundation brought it all rushing back to us.
Just to the north of the foundation, PHA built a two-story building in 2010. This project was fought by neighbors and SOSNA, with the District Court of Common Pleas overturning its zoning variance in 2011. Yet it remains in place, which shows that building "at risk" can sometimes come with no risk at all. To be clear, we don't object to affordable housing at this location, we just wish the architecture wasn't so... terrible. Given the desirable address, wouldn't three stories have made more sense here? Another frustrating element of this project is that it was built in the center of five lots, leaving weird side yards on either end of the building, ostensibly to accommodate a couple of windows.
Earlier this month, Philadelphia Business Journal indicated that months of negotiations between the developer and members of the community would result in changes to the project, including shrinking the building, eliminating the office use, and changing design elements to make the edifice "less modern and more fitting with Philadelphia." Le sigh. We've been patiently waiting for more details, hoping that the newly designed-by-committee project wouldn't be a major departure from what was shaping up to be an exciting new building for our skyline. Yesterday, Philly.com answered the bell, providing some new renderings and filling in some of the blanks from earlier this month.