Washington Ave. bums us out.

A hundred years ago, it was a major thoroughfare for goods into and out of Philadelphia, with train tracks running down the middle and a train station at Broad and Washington. Coal yards, metal manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, breweries and publishers, among many other industries, called Washington Ave. home in the late 19th century into the middle of the 20th century, according to the Phillyhistory blog.

Looking west on Washington Ave. in 1916. From Phillyhistory.org

In recent years, particularly on the western end, Washington Ave. has largely been home to vacant lots, empty buildings, and construction supply stores- and the ever-present risk of being run over by a forklift. Considering the tremendous development in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood and the burgeoning development in Point Breeze, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before stakeholders on and around Washington Ave. actively begin converting buildings from industrial uses to commercial and residential uses.

One example we covered months ago is a four story mixed-use building coming to 18th and Washington Ave., from the owners of C&R Building Supply. Though we’ve seen no progress at the site to this point, we understand that the project is still a go. As for the huge project planned for the Frankford Chocolate Factory at 21st and Washington Ave., we’re still optimistic, though the developers have maintained radio silence for months.

But repurposing industrial buildings on Washington Ave. doesn’t have to involve residential development, and that’s where (after all this exposition) NextFab Studio comes in. NextFab Studio, “a membership-based, high-tech workshop and prototyping center,” has plans to open a new location at 2025 Washington Ave., a currently vacant warehouse.

Future NextFab Studio

The rear of the building, on Kimball St.

NextFab Studio, located at 3711 Market St., opened about two years ago and is already preparing for a second location. On Washington Ave., NextFab will more or less continue their current efforts, only in a facility three times the size of their current space.

Per their website, they offer:

  • Innovation facility: state-of-the-art members-only workspace with high-end design and prototyping tools.
  • Education: courses and workshops covering topics such as software and equipment use, design and engineering, and entrepreneurship.
  • Technical services: in-house experts providing technical support for member projects, and product prototyping, and model-building on a contract basis for the community at large.
  • Community: a place to connect and collaborate with a network of fellow innovators with wide-ranging skills and diverse perspectives.
  • Retail sales: safety gear, raw materials, and tools.


NextFab will also have artist workspaces AND a cafe space for events.

We can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to the industrial history of Washington Ave. than the opening of a facility like NextFab Studio. Though it’s clearly several months away, we’re certain that it will be a smashing success. And hopefully, it will also get some developers to look at Washington Ave. in a new light, to boot.