We don’t spill too much virtual ink on the section of Northern Liberties between 5th Street, 7th Street, Brown Street, and Poplar Street, and for a good reason. This area was built up in the 1960s as part of an urban renewal effort in which all of the existing housing stock was demolished and replaced by airlite-style town homes, a la the Northeast. On the plus side, these homes were offered as affordable for-sale properties, providing access to homeownership to moderate income residents in a way that the City has not been able to replicate in recent years. The unfortunate aspects of the project are the architecture, the reliance on off-street parking and front-facing curb cuts, and the fact that this development dramatically decreased population density in the area.

One interesting feature is that most of the corner homes not only have front yards and rear yards, but also enormous side yards. Surely this was a sought-after amenity when the homes were first constructed – after all, a 1,500 sqft yard is pretty much unheard of in this town. These days though, a 1,500 sqft side yard could be considered an example of land that’s being used for something less than its highest and best use. Given the location this particular collection of homes, on the western edge of booming Northern Liberties, these side yards have caught the eyes of developers that are looking to capitalize on underused land in this desirable area. A few years back, we told you about two such properties, both on the north side of the 500 block of Brown Street.

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Home at 5th & Brown
6th & Brown

In the case of 501 Brown St., developers renovated the existing home and flipped it, while subdividing the side yard into a new property. They then built a new home, which sold for $1.325M back in 2019. The developers that bought 525 Brown St. also did a subdivision, building a home at the corner that sold in 2021 for $1.2M. The original home looks like it’s being used as a rental. In both cases, developers were able to build large three story homes and sell them at premium prices, which seems like a strong model for others in the area.

5th & Poplar

Lo, take a look at 500 Poplar St., where another group is pursuing a similar approach to what we saw at 5th & Brown. These developers have interestingly converted the garage into additional living space, leaving the driveway as outdoor parking. With the additional interior space, they have been able to put the renovated home under agreement at a $650K price point, which we believe would be an all-time high for this pocket. As one might expect, they’ve also subdivided the side yard into a new parcel and the plans call for a four-story home. Figure this one will follow in the footsteps of the other homes we just mentioned and will eventually trade at a seven-figure sale price. Given that it’ll be four-stories tall, it might even sell at a higher price than either of the other homes.