Say Sayonara to the Silo on Grays Ferry

The intersection of 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue is incredibly well traveled, as it provides access to West Philly, Southwest Philly, Center City, and I-76E. For such a popular intersection though, it’s pretty rough on the eyes. Aside from the Pennovation Works campus on the northwest corner, this immediate area is home to a pair of gas stations, a car wash, and a collection of industrial buildings. The most notable industrial building is a large silo at 1201 S. 35th St. which has been sitting blighted and vacant for a very long time. The building was previously used as an iron foundry, an animal feed supplement manufacturer, and a propane distributor, and to be fair, it’s been in use as a cell phone tower in recent years despite looking like a set piece from a post-apocalyptic movie.

We heard from a reader earlier today, notifying us that the building is currently getting torn down. Needed to see this with our own eyeballs, we sojourned over there, despite the Friday afternoon traffic. Lo and behold, the rumors were true.

Current view
From the east, looking into the sun

We should have guessed, but this property is owned by PAID, a City agency. We don’t know what they’re ultimately planning for the site, which measures almost 3 acres, but we found some clues thanks to Urban Engineers. This company did environmental investigation for the site and wrote about it online, noting the City intends to eventually redevelop the property in a manner consistent with the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan. That document shows an ‘Innovation District’ in the area immediately to the north of the silo property, covering the Pennovation Works campus. The silo property also sits on the edge of Forgotten Bottom and a couple blocks away from the Dupont Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail, meaning more pedestrians could be walking in this area in the coming years.

As we said, we have no idea what direction to expect the City will take with this property. They could go the industrial route, like many existing buildings in the area. They could opt for commercial space, maybe constructing an office building, to tap into the innovation action across the street. Maybe a public space would also make sense, tying into the nearby trail. One thing we don’t expect to see is residential development. Between the considerable auto traffic and the submerged train tracks on the western side of the property, it just doesn’t seem like the logical choice. In the meantime, if you’d like to see what’s left of the silo before it’s gone forever, we suggest you make your way to this intersection asap. Even if you don’t care about the silo, figure you’ll find yourself over there before you know it, as you try to get from one part of town to another.

Update: A commenter has directed our attention to a Philadelphia Business Journal article from December, which suggests that Penn has the parcel under agreement and could pursue a mixed-use project. If you have a subscription to PBJ (unlike us), you can check out the article and perhaps learn more.