Impressive But Confusing Development in Harrowgate

Once upon a time, Philadelphia was known as the "workshop of the world," with countless factories employing a large segment of the population and pumping out raw and finished goods. Fast forward to the present, and "eds and meds" has become the largest segment of the local economy, and we hardly make anything in Philadelphia anymore. All over town, many of the buildings that were once the backbone of Philadelphia industry have remained, reminding us of our city's history. Some of those buildings have been torn down in recent years, making way for new development in improving neighborhoods. Others have been fixed up and brought back into active use, with uses varying from residential to commercial to light industrial. And then there are the few buildings that have maintained their industrial use through the years, and generally look worse for the wear as a result.

Former Luithlen Dye Works

This brings us to the former Luithlen Dye Works, located at 3450 J St. in the Harrowgate neighborhood. The website Workshop of the World provides a lengthy history for this building, telling us that the building was occupied by the dye works starting in 1895, with several different families running the business over the years. Finally, it moved to Manayunk in 2003, and a casting company took over the building. That business moved away in the last somewhat recently, as developers purchased the building a couple years ago. If you pass by today, you'll see it's gotten quite a bit of work done, with the addition of new windows and a repointed facade.

Current view

Looking down Estaugh Street

You're probably wondering what's happening here, and we can sadly only provide a partial answer. We know that the property went to the ZBA earlier this month, with a proposal to convert the former dye works into an apartment building with 38 units. The project, which got approved, also included another building on the lot with 18 more units, and some kind of personal service element.

Looking back at the building from Tioga

Aside from the personal service bit, this seems straightforward enough. Our confustion with this project relates entirely to its location. If you're a regular reader, you know we don't go to Harrowgate very often. Heck, we don't go past Lehigh Avenue all that much, aside from the occasional Port Richmond project. And this development is happening way up into the neighborhood, almost at Erie Avenue, just off of Kensington Avenue.

So very close to the El

Market rate development simply doesn't happen up here. So we have to assume that this will be affordable housing. But from who? Project HOME? Something related to Saint Christopher's, the children's hospital located a few blocks from here? Or could it be an affordable housing development from a private investor? We don't know. We do, however, know that this is an awesome example of adaptive reuse and that it's wonderful to see that this old industrial building will get a new lease on life. We don't imagine it will spur any additional development in the area, but if the project proves to be a success, we certainly wouldn't mind seeing the building next door get a similar treatment.