It isn’t as pretty as you’d like to guess. In your memory you’re drunk on your awe to me- it doesn’t mean anything at all. Oh comely [sic].

We confess, we never really knew what that song meant. But we do know that we always hummed it when we passed by Comly Auctioneers, located on the edge of East Kensington. This business has a long and rich history, initially opening almost two hundred years ago, in 1834. Back then, they were located on Front Street, eventually moving to a building on 2nd Street for the first half of the 20th century. They settled into their current home at 1825 E. Boston St. in the late 1960s, and they’ve been auctioning and appraising here ever since.

View on Boston Street
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View on Hagert

The business will soon relocate out of city limits, and their sizable property is getting redeveloped. Developers are working with SgRA to construct an addition at the property, with two stories on top of the existing building at the site and a six-story addition to the north. This project will maintain industrial uses on the first floor, with a mix of vacant industrial use and artist studios, and will have 139 units on the upper floors. Given the size of the project, it will need to go to Civic Design Review, so we have renderings to share. We especially appreciate that the plan will make use of the existing building, keeping in concert with the industrial history of the area even as it shifts aggressively toward residential uses.

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Boston St. rendering
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Hagert rendering
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From the other side of the El
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Aerial rendering

Speaking of Civic Design Review, the packet for the project included a slide that shows just how much activity is happening here at the moment.

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All the projects nearby

When you think back to what was happening in this area even a few years ago, the ongoing and upcoming change is simply staggering. While we suspect that these projects all would have moved forward eventually here given the proximity to Fishtown, we wonder just how much the development process accelerated due to the fact that these projects are located in Federal Opportunity Zone census tracts, providing the investors in these projects with significant tax benefits for building here.

Whatever the reason, the landscape has shifted dramatically in this part of East Kensington, from post-industrial blight to a deluge of multi-family. Interestingly, Norris Square properties to the north and west have OZ benefits, but Harrowgate properties to the north and east do not. The velocity of development in the two neighborhoods in the near future might provide an indication of just how much impact Opportunity Zones are having in this part of town.