The Graduate Hospital neighborhood is probably the poster child for gentrification in Philadelphia over the last twenty years. Turn back the clock to the end of the Clinton presidency, and this neighborhood was home to over a thousand vacant buildings and lots. It’s a very different story today, as you could probably count the number of vacant buildings and lots on your fingers and your toes. Any time a property with development potential goes on the market, it’s immediately snatched up, and with sale prices for new construction with parking now exceeding seven figures, it’s no wonder why.
But there are still a handful of vacant lots out there in the neighborhood, which brings us to our topic for today. 2628, 2630, and 2632 Webster St. have been vacant for a loooong time. Looking at some historic maps, we see they were sitting vacant since at least the 1940s. Homes were on these lots through the early part of the 20th century, and it seems that their demolition happened around the same time that a precursor to Veolia became entrenched in Devil’s Pocket. Back in the late 1990s it might not have seemed so strange that these lots were sitting empty, but at this point it’s actually pretty incredible, even with the power plant pretty much across the street.
Now, after many decades of vacancy, it seems that these lots are finally poised for redevelopment. The owners are seeking to build three homes on these lots, but are looking for zoning variances, since the parcels are zoned for mixed-use commercial for some reason. Mixed-use makes absolutely no sense here, so we have to think that whenever the City and the ZBA resume doing business, this project will get approved and will move forward.
Perhaps these developers are thinking along these lines because of the three homes currently under construction next door. You may recall, we brought this project to your attention last fall, and that project is now relatively close to the finish line, though won’t be completed until construction is allowed to resume across the city. The same builder has broken ground on a 15-unit apartment building which will front Christian Street, but don’t look for anything beyond a foundation in the immediate future. As for the huge vacant lot around the corner on Schuylkill Avenue, we unfortunately have no update at this time, though we’re hopeful that this parcel will eventually get redeveloped and add far more than 21 new units to the area.