As is the case on several blocks in Northern Liberties, the south side of the 400 block of Fairmount Avenue has seen some major changes over the last decade. Starting at 414 Fairmount Ave. and moving west, all of the properties on the south side have turned over during that time, with new homes getting built and an old industrial building getting converted to apartments. On second thought, there’s been one holdout, and that’s 633-35 N. 5th St., two properties at the southeast corner of 5th & Fairmount.

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View in 1955 as a luncheonette. Image from Philly History.
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5th & Fairmount
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View on Fairmount
Closer look

Both of these buildings have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen better days. 635 N. 5th St., which sits on a particularly pointy corner, has a fairly unique appearance, with the first floor sticking out to the corner but the rest of the building set back a bit. You can see in the photo above, the building was used as a luncheonette way back when. We know that a non-profit was operating out of at least one of the buildings at one point during the last number of years, but it looks like the corner property has been sitting vacant for several years.

The buildings should soon meet the wrecking ball, however, as Onion Flats presented plans to the community last month for a new apartment building at this corner. The initial plans called for a 42′-tall building with 16 units over commercial, plus five parking spots. With industrial-commercial mixed-use zoning for these parcels, a zoning variance will be necessary, and community support would help in that regard. From what we understand, the developers will be coming back to the community with a revised plan later this month, and as such, we don’t have a rendering to share. Given the track record of this developer, however, we have to think that whatever they ultimately build will look cooler than most new construction, even if it doesn’t look like a giant solar battery.

Looking east on Fairmount
Southwest corner of 5th & Fairmount

As we said, the properties to the east have turned over in dramatic fashion in recent years, all with a residential bend. Likewise, we’ve seen new construction of townhomes and apartments to the south and west of this corner, in a collection of larger sized projects which have changed the face of this immediate area. Given all these units that have appeared here recently, we would argue that the zoning for 633-35 N. 5th St. is rather outdated, and that a variance would be the way to go here. Sure, maybe we’ll see the density come down a little but in the end, we imagine the developers and the community will come together on a path forward for this property that ties in with all the other development we’ve seen nearby.