vacant lot

How did this lot come to exist?

There's a vacant lot at 318 N. 42nd St. where developers are looking to build something new. Ho hum, more student housing for this block, which saw three new homes go up a few years ago and is a stone's throw away from dozens of relatively fresh projects. So why do we bother bringing this little property to your attention?

The property

Looking up 42nd Street

A peek at the zoning application is the first indication that there's something unusual afoot. The application calls for two buildings- a single family home and a rear building with 6 apartments and 6 parking spots. Looking at the parcel from the street, this doesn't seem so possible. Looking at it from above, all is explained.

Two duplexes planned north of Diamond Street

The development frontier seems to be expanding in South Kensington on a regular basis. We've seen new projects appear further and further west, recently checking in on a pair of projects near 6th & Jefferson, for example. On the 100 block of W. Berks Street, there's a significant residential project under construction, and a mixed-use project should eventually follow on the same block. Still, we were quite surprised when we heard that there were some zoning notices on the 2100 block of N. 2nd St., north of Diamond Street.

A home with zoning notices on either side

Yeah, that's them. The properties at 2122 and 2126 N. 2nd St. are zoned for commercial use, but the zoning notices indicate plans to build a pair of duplexes on either side of the home pictured above. That home is also getting renovated, fyi. A couple years ago, all three properties were listed for sale for $150K but no buyer came forward. Public record doesn't show it yet, but we'd wager that a developer has bought the properties and is now looking to build. We have to imagine that, assuming the ZBA approves the project and the duplexes get built, all five units will be offered as rentals. We're not feeling condo sales over here, you know?

This project just keeps chugging along

A few days ago, we told you about plans to demolish a long vacant warehouse at the corner of 10th & Mount Vernon, and to build a row of five duplexes in its place. To the east and the west of that project are homes that are part of Spring Arts Point, a development that's been slowly growing in the neighborhood since before the great recession. When Spring Arts Point is finished, it will have added over four dozen units to this area. As we told you the other day, the ten home phase on Mount Vernon Street sold out and at prices exceeding $500K per unit.

Project site plan

You can see, there's one section of the project that isn't centered around the intersection of 10th & Mount Vernon, and that's a six home offshoot on the northwest corner of 11th & Wallace. That parcel has been sitting vacant for many years, with a sign advertising the upcoming development. The sign is now gone, as the homes are under construction.

After almost a decade in purgatory

To state the obvious, Francisville has changed considerably since 2009. Back then, Inga Saffron wrote a story about the neighborhood, and started it thusly: "Francisville is by no means one of Philadelphia's hottest places to live -- at least not yet. Plenty of people have never heard of the modest rowhouse neighborhood wedged between fashionable Fairmount and comatose Ridge Avenue."

What a difference eight years makes. Francisville has seen a staggering number of projects since 2009, with new homes and condos galore filling in vacant lots or replacing older buildings. And Ridge Avenue has awoken, with over a dozen new buildings dotting the nascent commercial corridor. Through all the changes in the neighborhood, there has been one constant, and that's a vacant 1.5 acre triangular parcel at 19th & Wylie.

Glad to see this building stick around

The Ridge Avenue Farmers Market was one of the most impressive buildings in Francisville and also functioned as the economic center of the neighborhood for almost a century. We've covered this building before, so please raise your hand if you remember that it was constructed in 1875 in the High Victorian Gothic Style. Nobody? Oh well. If you'd like more information about the building's architecture, its 1983 nomination to the National Register of Historic Places provides all sorts of detail.

Sadly, the building fell out of use in the late 1960s and fell into disrepair as the neighborhood deteriorated. A storm in 1997 caused the roof to collapse and it was demolished soon after. The property sat vacant for a long time, with a row of townhomes finally filling in some of the parcel a few years back. Recently, we've heard rumblings that the rest of the property could be redeveloped in the near future. All of this is well and good, though we wish the old building could have stuck around for the rebirth of Francisville.

Seventeen homes, not eight like we thought

We last visited the corner of Mascher & Oxford a little over a month ago, and were a little confused about a zoning notice posted on a vacant lot at the corner advertising a plan for eight new homes. This seemed curious, since the developers had subdivided part of the property into ten lots last summer, so we didn't know whether this application was a change to the previous plan or whether it meant that even more homes would be rising here. Passing by the property just the other day, we spied a sign at the corner which directed us to a website for the project that provided some helpful information.

Four homes could fit the bill

It looks like the Spring Garden neighborhood could soon get a row of new homes, and we'd be willing wager that these homes will be on the shmancy side. For well over a decade, 1600 and 1602 Wallace St. have been sitting vacant, despite the fact that this is one of the more desirable neighborhoods ringing Center City. An upcoming zoning hearing could change things in a hurry for this property.

View of the property

According to the zoning notices posted on a chain link fence, developers are planning to subdivide the properties into four parcels and build four new homes which we believe would front 16th Street. Each home will be wider and shallower than the typical home, which will probably result floor plates that are relatively standard in size. The zoning application indicates that the homes will rise four stories and have front loading garages, telling us that the homes will have kitchens and living areas on the 2nd floor, with bedrooms on the upper floors.

Then we realized they're part of a larger project

When a reader tipped us off about some new construction at the corner of 19th & Thompson, we immediately thought back to our visit to the 1800 block of W. Thompson St. last summer, showing off some of the amazing architecture on the block. In case you've forgotten...

Great homes on this block

If you can divert your gaze from the amazing homes, you'll notice some new framing in the foreground of the image above. Let's get a better look at that, shall we?

Framing at the corner

There you go, four new homes. Makes sense, right? After all, this location is just a block north of Francisville and it's also close enough for Temple students to consider living here. But if you look carefully at the homes, you start to notice something strange- they're uncharacteristically small for new construction. The dimensions of the homes are roughly 20' wide, which is great, and about 27' deep, which is terrible. For reference, most new homes are built 38'-40' deep, mostly to accommodate nice sized bedrooms on the front and back of the 2nd floor. So... what gives?

Scioli Turco giving it the old college try

1004 S. 20th St. has been an eyesore for as long as we can remember. For at least a decade, this home has been rotting from the inside, with foliage visibly growing out of the facade since at least 2009. Until they were torn down by PHA in the summer of 2013, a pair of homes a few doors to the south were in worse condition, perhaps distracting from the deteriorating state of the home. Today, with a very small number of blighted properties remaining in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, this place sticks out like a sore thumb.

Blighted building

Plywood covering the door and garage door

Looking up

Back when we told you about the demolition to the south, we indicated that this building had been cited by L&I. Around the same time, it went to tax foreclosure sale, but it appears that the absentee owner was able to catch up on years of delinquencies. Today, those owners owe taxes from 2016, but sheriff's sale seems like a remote possibility. Enter the conservatorship option.

Spring is coming, after all

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.