Whimsical Arches Under the Tracks Join Busy Fishtown Block

“Whimsy” probably isn’t the first word you think of when it comes to the El tracks that hover above Front Street, and for good reason. It’s the El! It’s a sun-blocking steel superstructure that we all wish could be buried! Fortunately, things are getting a bit less grave on the 1700 block of N. Front Street in the near future, and maybe even a bit whimsical. Evil Genius Beer Co. is already on this block, offering colorfully named beers out of their brightly painted building. Now, immediately next door at 1713-21 N. Front St., they’ll be getting a new neighbor that’s going to bring some additional fun to the area. Thanks to a presentation at the Fishtown Neighbors Association zoning meeting earlier this week, we have the goods on this upcoming mixed-use project.

View looking across Front at 1713-21, with Evil Genius lurking in the background
The low-rise brick building currently sits on the middle of the property

As you can see, no great relics of Fishtown’s history will be lost, which is always a huge win in our book. And what’s rising is pretty sharp, or in this case, arched. A six-story, 55-unit mixed-use building will be heading our way, per the plans that Khosla Properties and Canno Design submitted to the FNA earlier this week. There were some additional renderings presented during the meeting as well, showcasing a commercial space on the southern side of the building. Parking access is through a garage on the north side, but the key features are undoubtedly the playful arches and round, colorful lights that are recessed within the facade.

Elevation drawing of Front St. facade shows ground floor arches with more standard shaped windows on the upper levels
Site plan shows substantial commercial space
Rendering shows brick base, with paneled upper floors in different colors
View looking north on Front St. shows notched corner, making for an inviting commercial entry
A closer look at the street-level experience
...and now with lights!

The design team stated they intentionally leaned into the fact that the El is right there, creating a building that intentionally has a specific street presence below the tracks and a contrasting presence that’s visible to the passersby on the MFL. With a trip still slated to the Civic Design Review in the coming months, we may still see some changes to the design, as the neighbors had some concerns regarding lighting, pedestrian safety, and loading. However, we love the thought of another 55 units on a severely underutilized lot, which reminds us slightly of another going up on N. Broad St. in West Poplar. And speaking of other projects, you don’t need to go far to find some other biggies.

Just next door to the south, an eight-story building is now well underway. Equinox and Sitio Architecture are above ground on this 70-unit building, which sits immediately to the west of the Box Factory lofts. This project will soar above much of the neighborhood, forming a striking outline while using a handsome combination of brick on the facade.

Current view shows concrete cores rising out of the ground
Future view of the project
Aerial shows how the project will rise above the tracks

Just across the street, the large surface parking lot also has big plans – bigger than our other two combined, in fact. Norr has designed a five-story project with 204 units and about 16K sqft of commercial space on the lower level. Plans call for an Urby, a lifestyle/apartment brand, to rise here, though no signs of construction could be seen as of yet. Zoning and building permits are already in hand, so we could see work start here any day at this point.

Current view of 1700-38 N. Front St., across the street
Future view, looking north from Cecil B. Moore
Aerial of the project, showcasing a color-blocked facade treatment

We have to say, we didn’t anticipate having a mid-rise canyon along the MFL on this block when we first came here to check out the Front Street Walls several years ago. Another 300+ units will certainly add to the excitement in this area, which sits just a block south of the Berks Station SEPTA stop. It will feel wildly different cruising around here once these projects are finished up, and we imagine we might have to dodge some Instagrammers as folks pose in front of that new, colorfully lit building.