Until the early 1960s, the blocks between 5th Street, 7th Street, Brown Street, and Poplar Street were traditional Philadelphia blocks, lined with row homes, apartment buildings, and the occasional mixed-use or industrial building. Of course, that’s not the case today, thanks to an urban renewal effort from the Redevelopment Authority. The PRA (then the RDA, still) condemned and demoed all of the buildings on these blocks roughly sixty years ago and sold the properties to Liberty Place Inc., a private developer that’s not related to the tower that rose about William Penn’s hat in 1987. This developer mostly built town homes on these blocks, setting the homes back from the street to allow for front loaded garages, and utilizing row home architecture that was popular in the 1960s. You can find similar designs in Southwest Philadelphia and the Northeast, but it’s safe to say that nobody would elect to build homes with these designs in 2018.
Another unique feature of this development is that the end homes on each block each received enormous side yards. The yards vary in size, but many of them are large enough that a developer could easily buy an end home, subdivide the property, and build a sizable new home at the corner. At 501 Brown St., that’s exactly what’s happening.
About a year ago, a developer purchased the home at 501 Brown St. and went to work rehabbing the interior while going through the zoning process to break off the yard from the existing home. The renovated home sold over the summer, around the time that the project received a variance from the ZBA (needed only for the parking). Now, as you can see in the image above, there’s a new home under construction at the corner. And it’s going to be a monster.
The new home at 800 N. 5th St. will have roughly 4,000 sqft of living space, 5 bedrooms, 4 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, two-car parking, a front yard, a rear yard, and a roof deck. Typically, homes of this size need to go up to four stories, but because of the size of the lot, the home will be more modest than you might expect, at least in terms of height . Look for a list price of $1.4M, when the home is done in the spring. Gnome Architecture did the design work, thankfully not taking any cues from the homes next door.
Seeing this home under construction, it should come as no surprise that other developers have had the same idea. All you need to do is walk to 6th Street to see a similar project that’s awaiting groundbreaking.
Developers purchased 525 Brown St. last year and have permits in hand to build a new home there, and just by eyeballing it we’re expecting another mansion. The spray paint on the sidewalk shows that the survey company has come out, and that usually happens shortly before groundbreaking. So figure this block will soon gain two enormous new homes which will surely sell for north of seven figures, joining a small handful of similarly prices homes in the neighborhood.
Disclosure: The developer of 800 N. 5th St. is an employee of OCF Realty, the parent company of Naked Philly. So figure we’ll get a tour before it sells.