vacant lot

To the surprise of absolutely nobody

We've been banging the drum for Washington Avenue west of Broad for a long time, liking it so much we even moved our office there. Finally, after years of waiting, the corridor is taking steps in the right direction. Framing is underway at Lincoln Square at Broad & Washington, and this project will eventually create a few hundred apartments and over 100K sqft of retail. Way to the west, at 2501 Washington Ave., there are plans for a mix of homes and apartments, and construction recently started up again after a lull. In between those projects though, at 2300 Washington Ave., is one of our least favorite projects in the city. We're referring, of course, to the Extra Space Storage Facility, which is now getting close to completion. Check it out, in all its crapitude.

Love the addition's addition to the mural

The Brewerytown Garden, located at the corner of 27th & Master, is one of the more successful community garden spaces we can think of, offhand. The garden was initially established like half a dozen years ago as Marathon Garden, a farm to table operation associated with Marathon Grill. By 2015, Marathon was out and the community stepped in and rechristened the space for the neighborhood. The garden is about half an acre in size, contains 75 individual plots, and has electricity, running water, composting bins, and a community gathering space. The improving Girard Avenue corridor makes Brewerytown a more livable neighborhood, but this garden helps maintain the feeling of community in the area.

And it's already under agreement

It's our job to ramble about the city, seeking out new and (sometimes) exciting development situations. Over the course of these ramblings, we not only find all sorts of projects, but we also regularly stumble upon unexpected features of the Philadelphia cityscape. For example, we were taking a walk through Queen Village over the holiday weekend and noticed the entrance to the little 700 block of S. Reese Street on the north side of the 500 block of Catharine Street. It caught our attention because the street surface looked porous, like the 800 block of Percy Street, which we covered last week.


Looking up Reese Street

Intrigued, we decided to take a walk up the street. And we quickly realized that there was a new home under construction on the block.

But a building would be better still

We were grabbing a coffee in Old City the other day, and something unexpected caught our eye on the 200 block of Market Street. It was a beer garden! 240 Market St. has been sitting vacant since the auction house that previously stood there burned down in 1987. According to a City Paper (pour one out) story from 2013, the property is owned by Victor Gordon, who also owns a shop on 3rd Street that sells various African statues and other carvings. Gordon has had some kind of a beef with the City over the years, and the article claims that he left his Market Street lot vacant and overgrown more or less out of spite for the City. Not for nothing, it looked pretty awful.

Folsom Powerhouse getting a new neighbor

On 17th Street between Olive and Folsom Streets, there's a roughly 8,000 sqft parcel that's been sitting empty for as long as we can remember. New development have sprung up around this property though, with the Folsom Powerhouse project rising next door on the 1700 block of Folsom Street, and a new mixed-use building around the corner on the 1700 block of Fairmount Avenue. And yet 708-16 N. 17th St. has continued to sit vacant, aside from some trees and a few cars.

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.

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