Development Opportunity: Former Convent on Susquehanna

We always note 'For Sale' signs in our travels around town, but when such a sign is affixed to an attractive old building, it grabs our attention and doesn't let go. Recently, we saw a 'For Sale' sign at 1420-22 E. Susquehanna Ave., and we've been thinking about it ever since.

The building

Closer look

With just a quick glance, you can see that this structure was used for religious purposes. The listing provides greater detail. The building was constructed in 1924 as the Convent for the Holy Name of Jesus Church (so says the cornerstone too). And plenty of the original details, like stained glass windows, woodwork, tin ceilings, and the staircase, remain. It's a double-wide property that goes up to three stories in the rear, and has over 11K sqft of interior space. Also, it goes street-to-street, extending to Hewson Street with possible room for parking for a few cars in the back.

So what will happen to this property? It's hard to say. The list price is $595K, and they haven't found a buyer after two months on the market. At some point though, a buyer will step forward and it will be fascinating to see what they try to do.

The property is zoned for single-family use, so any redevelopment efforts will have to involve the community and the ZBA. The most straightforward development play would be the demolition of the building and the construction of four homes in its place. But the lot extends 142', which would result in hilariously large rear yards between the homes. Also, we don't think that the community would be pleased to see this wonderful building torn down. Converting the building to residential use would satisfy the people who would want to see the building preserved, but would likely result in a battle over parking. Probably the best option would be a large number of smaller rental units, but the developers might need to compromise with a smaller number of larger units sold as condos to deal with parking concerns.

Another angle, of course, would be for a very wealthy person to convert the existing building into one of the most unique homes in Philadelphia. If there are any millionaires out there with a hankering for an amazing Fishtown mansion, this could be their chance. We just hope they'll give us a tour after construction finishes as a show of thanks for giving them the fantastic idea.