Even though it’s not technically on the Philadelphia street plan in this part of town, Wilt Street in Fishtown is a moniker that shouts Philly. The Big Dipper from Overbook, the legendary Wilt Chamberlain, always comes to mind whenever we hear the name. When researching the history of the street that pops in and out of the grid from the Delaware River through deep West Philly, we found out The Stilt was actually named for this very street, as his parents resided on the west end of this little-known lane when he was born. Though Wilt was renowned for his incredible size, skill and athleticism, this sliver of Wilt Street could almost be missed altogether if not for the official-looking signage. Now that we’ve satiated our Sixers history, we’re here at this hidden street thanks to two projects on E. Thompson St. and E. Berks St. that were recently presented to the zoning committee of the Fishtown Neighbors Association. Let’s first stroll to the north edge of E. Wilt & Belgrade to get our bearings straight.

Looking south down E. Wilt St. from Belgrade St.
An aerial of the block showing Wilt Street and both of the proposed project locations, with the Thompson St. project in green and the Berks St. project in yellow

Let’s start with the project at 627-33 E. Thompson St., highlighted in green above and sitting at the southern end of Wilt Street. As you can see in the aerial, a number of structures sat on this lot in the past, including a cute little rowhome. Demolition took place in the last few years and the site currently sits vacant and ready for its next chapter. But what’s to come?

View of a cleared 627-33 E. Thompson St. looking north
View of back end of 627-33 from the southern end of Wilt St.

Why don’t we walk through the previous plans before getting to the most recent update, shall we? Check out the awesome renderings for what was proposed from KJO Architecture, along with the site plan for the current iteration.

Original plan shows eight homes with a circular driveway - so long, trees
A view of the originally planned drive aisle
View of houses facing E. Thompson St.
Renderings of the originally proposed interior courtyard

A proposal for eight houses and a pretty slick looking roundabout was presented months back and ultimately refused for the site, which is only permitted for three houses by right. A seven-home proposal (also courtesy of KJO) went back to the FNA zoning committee last week, where the project was met with opposition by the neighbors, who voted to not support the plan. Next up: a trip to the Zoning Board of Adjustments in hopes they’ll vote differently from FNA’s non-binding response, in which case it would be all systems go.

Just around the corner at our yellow-shaded buildings at 1306 E. Berks St., another multi-unit proposal went to the FNA zoning committee last week. This Gnome Architects-designed project proposes five 3-bed, 3.5-bath townhouse units, accessed by a drive aisle from Berks. Two rather unremarkable beige homes would be demolished to make room for this proposal, which was also opposed by the FNA. Like the other project, look for a trip to the ZBA for this project in the future.

The two houses on the left are part of the proposed 1306 E. Berks St.
The view of the back of the lot from Wilt St.
1306 E. Berks St.
Site plan shows the drive aisle and the five proposed units
Elevations show how units will squeeze into lot

These are fascinating projects to us, as there aren’t many areas of the city that have so many off street houses. Multiple projects just on this block have been given a similar treatment. As the foot traffic in the area can more than attest to, Fishtown remains more appealing than ever. We can almost guarantee we’ll see more creative approaches as land becomes less and less available in this uber hip area. Oh, and Go Sixers!