125 N. 10th St. stands as a unique example of a building that has been designated historic both locally and nationally, even though its defining features only date back to the 1970s. According to the nomination to the local register, the building dates back to the 1830s, but none of the original facade is currently visible. T.T. Chang founded the Chinatown YMCA on the second floor of this building in 1955, providing services to Chinese immigrants as well as native born children of immigrants in what was then a growing Chinatown neighborhood. Chang purchased the building in 1966 and two years later the YMCA transitioned into the Chinese Cultural and Community Center. In an effort to connect the building to the heritage of the local community, Chang hired architect C.C. Yang from Taiwan to completely overhaul the building’s facade to reflect the “Classical Chinese Style.” This work was completed in 1971, and was the basis for the building being added to the historic registers. Looking at the building, it’s hard to argue against its historic nature.
You can see in the image above, from just a couple years back, that the building was not very well maintained. The community center closed in 2007, and the building has been sitting vacant ever since, under the ownership of a non-profit related to the shuttered community center. Until a few years ago, when the building was added to the local register, there was real concern that a developer would purchase the property and tear down this significant structure. However, as is often the case with historic designation, the owners of the property were further limited in their ability to improve the building because they weren’t able to make any changes to the facade. Scioli Turco came onto the scene in 2016, with an eye toward bridging that gap.
We’ve mentioned Scioli Turco many times before. They’re the non-profit company that specializes in utilizing the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act to take control of vacant and blighted properties, fix them up, and sell them off. Commonly known as Act 135, this state law has generally had a beneficial impact on communities in Philadelphia, allowing for the redevelopment of stubbornly blighted properties, like the mansion at the corner of 18th & Delancey. Act 135 only allows the conservator to take a “developer fee,” while the proceeds of the sale, less the costs of renovation, go to the owner of the property.
To make a long story short, Scioli Turco stepped in and did major work on the outside of the building, cooperating with the Historical Commission to restore it to its former condition. Inside, they essentially made the building safe, connected utilities, and brought it up to shell condition. Back in May, the building was listed for sale for $1.4M.
Within two weeks, the building was under agreement. We don’t, at this time, have any info on who is buying the property or what they’re planning, but we’d expect retail on the first floor and residential above. The good news is that the exterior of the building will continue to be maintained, whatever happens inside. Even though the facade only dates back less than fifty years, it’s an important connection to the history of this neighborhood, and we look forward to admiring it for many years to come.