The building at 201 Spring Garden St. hearkens back to the industrial past of Northern Liberties, and its relatively recent changes speak to the current direction of the neighborhood. The building was originally constructed in 1913 by Valentine H Smith & Co. wholesale druggists and manufacturing pharmacists. Over time, the building housed a toy concern as well as a door hardware business run by the on-the-nose Doorcheck family, and was eventually converted to office use about a dozen years ago after it was purchased by Tower Investments. Eventually, Tower decided that office use didn’t make financial sense at 2nd & Spring Garden, and decided to pursue a plan to convert the property into 17 condo units. Renzi Properties bought the property when it got converted, and currently manages it as a rental apartment building with rents ranging from $1,500-$2,200/mo.
The old building is pretty cool, and we’re pleased that it has survived for roughly a century, housing a number of different businesses and people during those years. If we have one gripe, it’s that the building only covers roughly half of the property and that a surface parking lot covers the rest. As we’ve said more times than we can count, we don’t much care for surface parking lots, and this one is no exception. So you can imagine our satisfaction when we heard that the owners of the property are looking to redevelop the parking lot, along with a one-story section of the former industrial building, at N. American & Green.
The zoning refusal is a little bit confusing, but from what we can tell, the plan calls for the demolition of the one-story building and the construction of a new five-story addition with 8 apartments on the upper floors and 7 parking spaces on the ground floor. The plan also would entail the construction of a second building on the site, ostensibly where the surface parking lot is currently located, with retail on the first floor, eight apartments on the upper floors and six additional parking spaces. The refusal seems to indicate that the existing parking spots will remain, but we have to think that this is an error and that the parking currently at the site will disappear as the new building is constructed. Our suspicion that the refusal was written incorrectly is supported by the fact that the ZBA has held a decision on this case, pending a corrected refusal.
Assuming the project gets the variance it seeks, there will be a total of 31 apartments at this address. That number still feels light in terms of density, considering the property measures nearly 13K sqft. Still, we’d argue that 31 apartments are better than 17 apartments here, and mixed-use is pretty much always better than a surface parking lot. More density would have been better, but all things considered, this looks like it’ll be a win for the property and a positive step for the neighborhood.