While Grays Ferry has seen a considerable amount of construction and renovation over the last several years, the vast majority of this development has been of the low density, infill variety. This is in contrast to some other neighborhoods that have seen lots of construction of late, where we’ve seen a combination of infill development, sizable townhome projects, and medium to large multi-family buildings. In Point Breeze, for example, we’ve seen mixed-use projects rise on Point Breeze Avenue, plus multiple townhome projects with more than ten homes at a time. Ditto in Brewerytown, just sub Girard for Point Breeze Avenue. Throw in Francisville while you’re at it, but we’re talking Ridge Avenue in that part of town.

The story in Grays Ferry, like we said, has been a bit different. We can only think of one sizable townhome project, the 25 home development at 25th & Dickinson. We’ve heard of plans for others, but haven’t seen any come to fruition. In terms of multi-family development, we’ve seen plenty of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, but only a handful of apartments buildings. Herringbone Lofts at 25th & Oakford converted an industrial building into 54 units, and those apartments are now available for rent. Dickinson Lofts at 29th & Dickinson converted an old convent into 20 units. A couple new buildings on Grays Ferry Avenue will account for 30 units combined, and both should be done later this year.

Considering the size of the neighborhood and its proximate location to both Center City and West Philadelphia, you’d think there’d be more apartment buildings around here. We’d posit that the lack of apartment buildings is due to a combination of a lack of large vacant lots in the neighborhood, combined with an unfriendly zoning map. Grays Ferry Avenue, which could accommodate some density because of larger sized lots, is zoned almost entirely for industrial use, so apartments would require a variance. Good news though, storage facilities are permitted by right.

Looking back into the neighborhood, the 1300 block of S. Patton Street was struck from City maps in the 1970s, but for whatever reason the address 1330 S. Patton St. continues to exist to this day. This flag-shaped parcel is accessed from the 3100 block of Reed Street and was, for decades, used as a parking lot for the church next door. Interestingly, this property is zoned for multi-family use, despite its longterm surface parking use. Developers bought the lot in 2021, and have constructed a by-right four-story, 42-unit building at the property. Interestingly, the building is set back almost 100 feet from the sidewalk – so you can be forgiven if you didn’t notice the construction over the last year and change at this somewhat hidden property.

The building itself is a fairly utilitarian affair, utilizing hardi plank cladding of varying widths on the front facade. If the building were sitting at the front of the property line we might quibble with the materials, but since it’s sitting so far off the street it actually looks like a magnificent rear of a building rather than a value-engineered front facade. Thanks to the large setback, the building has a sizable front yard with a winding path and landscaping on either side – not only does this help with stormwater management, but it also provides a cool amenity to the residents and a unique bit of curb appeal. Figure this will look awesome in the spring, once things start blooming.

This building makes all the sense in the world at this location and is a dramatic upgrade over a surface parking lot. Like we said, this building is walkable to Center City or West Philly, but a bike or a quick bus ride might be an easier choice than hoofing it. Also, Stinger Square is half a block away and is an underrated park with a pool in the summer and some recently upgraded playground equipment. Units are currently for rent at some of the lowest prices we’ve seen for new construction in greater Center City, so let’s hear it for a higher and better use, plus a dash of affordability. We have to think we’ll see more multi-family construction in the future in this neighborhood, with some huge opportunities on Grays Ferry Avenue for someone who’s willing to navigate the zoning risk.