If we’re feeling especially feisty and looking to stir up some neighborhood competition, we might posit that 2nd Street in Northern Liberties is the best commercial corridor in the city. Despite the mix of new construction and old architecture, and businesses ranging from bowling to bagels, there was, for many years, a giant and unwelcoming gap smack dab in the heart of the district. This block, roughly stretching from Poplar St. to the north to Fairmount Ave. to the south, was home to a smattering of industrial buildings and empty lots, though at least there was some cool street art in the mix.

Looking south down the western side of the street from 2nd & Poplar, from several years back

This mishmash of broken sidewalks and old buildings had plans come and go over the years, including at the corner of 2nd & Poplar. We visited this corner last year to check out the scene, when we got word of an impending demolition and a mixed-use building planned for the SW corner of the intersection.

You can likely guess where this is going: demo is complete and construction is well underway for this 55-unit building coming to us from a partnership of Catalyst City Development and Southwood Properties. What’s to rise here is a five-story, contemporary apartment building that will sit above three retail spaces totaling approximately 9K sqft. These retail spots will front 2nd Street, reactivating a stretch that was anything but active for many years (unless you were a street artist, that is). Let’s check out the plans from CosciaMoos.

A look at the corner from early last year
The view today looking just a touch different, with the framed-out building basically at full height
A rendering of the five-story, 55-unit, bay-heavy design
A look at the site plan shows the 2nd St. retail and the Poplar St. lobby entrance
A rendering shows off an outdoor dining area attached to one of the retail spots

Quite the step up from a functionality standpoint, huh? But that’s not all! Directly to the south is a project that’s been in the works for even longer and is even bigger. This 78-unit apartment building is still a bit of a mystery, but we can now see that things are also full steam ahead here, as well. Climbing up to six stories, this project will pair nicely with its companion next door, with this one also bringing some jaunty modern flair and a fresh grocer for its ground level. This project, unlike the first one we discussed, will feature underground parking which unfortunately will add a curb cut to the strip.

Framing starting to rise above the steel base next door
A fuzzy old rendering of what we assume will be going up

Adding 130 or so units and four commercial spaces here is exactly what the doctor ordered. This side of the street was unwelcoming to walkers and formed something of a barrier between the upper and lower reaches of 2nd St., between the northern edges near Girard Ave. and Spring Garden St. to the south. And excitingly, this chunk of the corridor could see even bigger changes, at least if the big plans for a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly 2nd Street become a reality.

An aerial of the block shows what a greener future could look like
The view looking south from Poplar would look nothing like it does today

We’d love to see this wide stretch, complete with all of its angled parking, realize its full potential. With the increased residential density thanks to these upcoming project along with a number of new buildings near Girard, the environment for businesses on the corridor is only improving. Let’s cross our fingers that we’ll see some iteration of an improved roadway occur in tandem with these new apartment additions, helping to level up an already accomplished commercial corridor.