We Saw a Hole at the Former Triangle Park

Remember Triangle Park? A few years ago, some neighbors created a green space on a triangular vacant lot at the intersection of E. Passyunk Avenue and Christian and S. 6th Streets, a site that was once a gas station. 

Just a couple of years ago

In 2011, the Redevelopment Authority was going to buy the land to create a permanent park, but then decided against it because of possible soil contamination. In 2012, the owners fenced in the lot and in 2013 they tore out most of the plantings. The property has been on and off the market, and was most recently listed for $250K. It's unclear whether developers have stayed away because of the price, because of potential soil issues, or because they don't want to be known as the company that took over a lot that many people want to see as green space.

When we passed by this lot earlier today, we were shocked to see what appears to be the beginning of a new project. It looked like a hole was being dug, ostensibly for new foundations. Given what we know about the soil, we'd have bet the farm that any construction here would involve a slab and little to no digging.

View from the north

This time from the south

Looking at public record, the ownership remains the same. On the L&I Map, we see no permits have been pulled. So what's going on here?

According to the Friends of Triangle Park, what you see in the photos above is not actually a new development. Instead, it's a monumental screw-up by a contractor. According to the FOTP, contractors came to the site yesterday and took away seven truckloads of dirt. But they weren't supposed to be digging here at all- their job was at another address. This is particularly problematic because the soil is probably contaminated, so the excavated dirt now needs to be tracked down by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Today, the contractor is filling the lot back in with clean dirt.

We've reached out to L&I to confirm this story, but assuming it's true, we hardly even know what to say about it. Who starts digging a hole without knowing where they're digging? What happened to the gas station dirt? Will this contractor dig another hole again in Philadelphia? Does the clean-dirt-infusion make the site more attractive for redevelopment? For conversion into a park? If nothing else, this situation represents a change of the status quo for a property that has seemingly been in a holding pattern for a couple of years. We'll see whether it leads to any changes in the years to come.