Fishtown’s “entertainment district” at the south terminus of Frankford Ave. is one of the more interesting areas we can think of from a development standpoint. The area’s past consisted of mostly industrial uses, with a few of the buildings and businesses holding on to this day. The Fillmore complex adaptively-reuses some of those old buildings, while the George L. Wells Meat Company still proudly continues its operations just across the street. But our gaze today is aimed at two empty, intriguing properties – and one big new addition to the Philly food scene.

00-fishtown Aerial
An aerial of the area near E. Laurel & Delaware Ave.

Let’s first start with the property highlighted in yellow above, where the surface parking lot at 69-83 E. Laurel St. is a curious case. Wedged between I-95 to the west and Other Half Brewing to the east, this property has long held our attention, mostly because it seemed so ripe for development after some townhouses went up close by years back. Curiously, there is a for sale sign on the fence of the property, but online digging doesn’t show any active listings. We reached out to the listing agent here but have yet to get word about what might be in the works. Interestingly, the billboard on the property looks to be a separate parcel, so that will likely stick around no matter what happens. The CMX-3 zoning here means we could see a number of possibilities, including something fairly dense and mixed-use on this site, which looks to be ~22K sqft across the parcels.

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Looking at the fenced off property at 69-83 E. Laurel St.
02-69-83 Laurel
The large lot near the Fillmore
03-69-83 Laurel
A look across Laurel shows the proximity to I-95

If you thought this under-utilized lot was big, there’s an even bigger one just around the corner. This series of properties roughly between Canal and Front St. (highlighted in orange above) has been owned by the same group for years and sports a similar CMX-3 zoning to the previous property. There’s also a separate little section that is actually owned by a different entity (grayed out in the aerial) that features a steep drop from the street level and surrounding areas and is also fenced off. We haven’t heard anything about these properties lately after a false start about potential green space many years back, though we can envision a future where they pair nicely with the Five on Canal apartments rising across the way.

955 N Front
An even larger lot in limbo, with Five on Canal rising in the background
A separately owned piece of the parcel is well below street-level

And while vacant lots are fun and all, sometimes real-life action is welcomed, too. And thankfully at 1000 Frankford Ave. at the base of Frankford & Laurel (highlighted above in blue), the newly opened Mamajuana Cafe has filled the former Mad Rex/The Fin location. This 10K sqft space features Dominican fare and a vibrant, Caribbean environment that can seat hundreds of diners. We sadly arrived before they opened for the day, but we can’t wait to stop in soon and check out the scene.

1000 Frankford
Mamajuana Cafe, now open at the south end of Frankford Ave.

With other nearby changes planned for pedestrian improvements, we could see this area looking very, very different over the next several years. The prominent location and permissive zoning seem like a perfect pairing to make these large properties enticing for development, even with the thousands of units that are going up in every direction from here. If we had to guess, we’d imagine we’ll find ourselves back on this stretch sooner than later to report on the next big thing coming to Fishtown.