While the Delaware River Waterfront is one of our favorite places to hang, the area hasn’t always been the most welcoming. As recently as a few years back, Philly’s less heralded waterfront prominently featured a collection of empty lots, broken up by an occasional random business or small building, with a handful of more substantial buildings also in the mix. 700-30 N. Delaware Ave., previously been a bus depot, was not a vacant lot per se, but it sure didn’t offer much to anyone visiting the waterfront. Thankfully, this prime spot just north of where Fairmount Ave. reaches the water has seen not only a redevelopment proposal, but plenty of construction work already.
In case you’ve been mixed up by all of the development in the area, let’s provide a quick refresher since our last official visit in June 2022: Saxum Real Estate has paired with JKRP Architects to bring a two-building, 466-unit, mixed-use project to the block. While the two seven-story buildings are the most prominent parts of the project, it will also entail the refurbishment of the historic rowhomes from the 1830s that sit on the southern side of the site. When we went to check out progress, we were thrilled to see these old buildings getting some love as the western-most building rises immediately next door. About 15K sqft of retail space will also be included here in the center of the site, creating a retail-lined pedestrian path where Canal Street once ran.
This project definitely checks a lot of boxes. The property was long underutilized from a planning perspective, so adding hundreds of residents to this spot that sits between the heart of Northern Liberties and the riverfront trail seems like a no-brainer, despite the decades of starts and stops to boost the residential mass east of I-95. But despite this prime location and the huge amount of development taking place close by, there is still a boatload of potential in the area. This site is still adjacent to far too many empty surface lots, as you can tell from an overhead view of the site.
Let’s talk each of the lots. Property one sits at 626 N. Delaware Ave. and is actually one we stopped to visit earlier this year, when a zoning permit indicated things may potentially be moving forward. The plans here are unlike any we’ve seen: 96 units to sit over an auto dealership. Property two is another we’ve checked out in the past, with the last proposal calling for a Wawa gas station and parking garage, which thankfully never happened. Properties three and four are currently empty lots on either side of Brown St. and while there are no current plans, both are zoned for multi-family, so we’d imagine there are on radar of developers.
In a place where cars sped through and light-industrial uses were the norm, there will soon be a retail-heavy, walkable community with hundreds of new residents. And if you think this site is far off the beaten path, the five-minute walk to the heart of Northern Liberties or the ten-minute walk to the center of the Fishtown entertainment complex might quickly change your mind. Oh, and the short trek to the Spring Garden MFL station means this spot is even more connected than one might think. Not bad for a former bus depot.