Warehouse is Gone on Memphis Street, Mixed-Use Building Coming Instead

A reader reached out to us the other day and gave us the heads up that a one-story warehouse at 438 Memphis St. was no more. Given the terrific location, mere steps from Palmer Park and Frankford Ave., it actually came as a bit of a surprise that this property hadn’t been redeveloped previously. So we dug in to do a bit of research.

In the past
Current view

The building that previously stood here was seemingly in active use until just a few years ago, as the home of a company called Penn Wire Specialty. With little to go on other than the name, we’re gonna go ahead and guess that this was some kind of a wire business. As we’ve seen on countless occasions in the past though, Fishtown isn’t quite the warm and welcoming environment for industry these days, with apartments, homes, and neighborhood retail being the name of the game. Still, the old building had a certain charm to it.

A developer purchased the 7,500 sqft property back in 2016, paying a mere $210K, and received approvals to build a three-story addition on the existing building with fifteen apartments, and to convert the ground floor into a pair of commercial spaces. Since this plan was entirely by right, getting those approvals didn’t take much. Interestingly, these developers put the property back on the market with plans and permits for $1.5M. Here’s a rendering of what they proposed:

Pretty cool looking

The current owners of the property bought it at the end of last year and paid $1.1M. And then they discarded the plans that were done by the previous owners and came up with their own concept, to demolish the building and build something entirely new in its place. The new plan, which is also totally by-right, calls for a five-story building with 20 apartments and retail on the first floor. Additional height and density certainly makes sense here, and a new construction commercial space will probably lay out more intuitively than a reused warehouse. That being said, it would have been a cooler looking project if they could have found a way to build the extra story and still maintain the old building.

View on Memphis
View on Palmer St.

Less exciting but still worth mentioning, we also noticed some additional construction across the street from the recently demoed warehouse. 1506-08 E. Palmer St. has been sitting vacant for quite some time, but now developers are building a pair of homes on the double-wide lot. For reasons we don’t quite understand, it seems these homes will only go up two stories, which is incredibly rare for new construction in Philadelphia. In fact, outside of affordable/workforce housing, we can’t think of any examples of two-story new construction in row home neighborhoods. Can you?

Update: Maybe it’s because we didn’t recognize the property as viewed from Memphis Street, maybe it’s just because we’re getting old, but we forgot that we covered 1506-08 E. Palmer St. just a couple years ago. In brief, it’s a family, not a developer, that bought this property, and they’re building a home for themselves while trying to maintain passive house standards. As the project is not being built with the intention of maximizing profits, the smaller size starts to make much more sense.