The triple-wide building at 2031-35 Washington Ave. has a decidedly backward looking approach to the corridor on which it sits. This two-story industrial building stretches all the way to Kimball Street and dates back at least over half a century. For many years, a tire business occupied the majority of the building and more recently a small restaurant occupied a small space as well. We had a lousy breakfast sandwich from this place maybe ten years ago, but we don’t feel guilty badmouthing the food since the business has been gone for quite some time. Within the last couple years, Philly Home Supply opened in the building, yet another building materials business on the corridor. It’s odd that a store targeting contractors would have opened on Washington Avenue in the current development climate, but the corridor is still mis-zoned for industrial use, so this is the kind of thing we’ll continue to run into as long as that situation continues.

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The building

Over the last several years, we’ve seen a few different projects come down the pike on Washington Avenue that have looked past the corridor’s industrial past in favor of a consumer-focused mixed-use development. Lincoln Square is the most prominent example, with hundreds of new apartments and a supermarket, a Target, and a liquor store at Broad & Washington. Next up will be a smaller project at 25th & Washington, which will have several dozen units above a gym and looks like it’ll be completed sometime later this year. Breaking ground later this year are a couple apartment buildings on the 2100 and 2200 blocks, with the former offering a supermarket and a drug store and several available retail spaces in the latter project.

Again, when considering the context of these large projects, it’s a little strange that a building supply company would set up shop on Washington Avenue. It seems that the owners of the property are coming around to that idea though, as they are now proposing a major change for their property which would allow them to split the difference between the past and present of the corridor. Tonight, they will be presenting a plan at SOSNA to build a six-story addition to their building which will include 37 apartments, a project that would maintain the presence of the business that’s already there. The project also calls for 15 parking spots inside the building.

Though we haven’t seen the specific plans, we’re generally in favor of the concept of the project. Washington Avenue is quite wide and can easily accommodate the additional height, assuming that the project has setbacks in the rear to avoid overwhelming the narrow residential street in the back. The business on the first floor may fit in less and less on the corridor as the years go by, but the apartments above will never go out of style, and the density will benefit other businesses nearby and add vibrancy to the corridor. We believe that the concept of the project certainly makes sense, now it’s just a matter of whether the details are on point, the community offers support, and the ZBA signs off.

NextFab and Cafe Ynez next door
Former Chocolate Factory site to the west

If you’d like to get the particulars on this project, check out tonight’s SOSNA zoning meeting- you can vote yea or nay if you live in the neighborhood. And please, feel free to share anything you learn at the meeting in the comments.

Update: We’ve learned that the proposed project has a curb cut on Washington Avenue. Given our hopes for the most pedestrian friendly corridor possible, we wouldn’t support the project unless it eliminates the curb cut. Seems like an easy enough correction, no?