The array of architectural styles, the mix of businesses, and the pedestrian-scaled streets and buildings collectively make Old City a wonderful place to visit or live, and that’s before we even get to the more touristy historical options. N. 3rd Street, with its charming storefronts and tree-lined sidewalks, is perhaps our favorite stretch of all. And thanks to plans that were provided to the Philadelphia Historical Commission, we know that one particular corner is set to undergo quite the change.

130 N. 3rd St. sits at the southwest corner of 3rd & Cherry and has been a one-story building for over 70 years after the original structure was demolished. Formerly home to a number of different businesses – including John’s Place back in the late ’70s – this stucco building and surface parking lot were most recently home to La Locanda Del Ghiottone, a lovely little Italian spot that closed in the last couple years. We actually covered this property wayyyyy back in 2011 (!) when there was a fire that temporary ceased operations. But as you can see below, after making a glorious (and very yellow) return, the building now sits empty today.

Ground floor will include commercial space along 3rd St., four parking spaces along Cherry St., and one unit per floor for the upper four floors
Elevation rendering shows future view from 3rd St.

Things will likely look very different here in short order. Zoubek Properties recently purchased the building last summer and is proposing a five-story, mixed-use project to take its place. Gnome Architects has designed a tall, narrow edifice for the slim lot, which would cover nearly the entire footprint of the property, surface parking area included. This proposal would feature four three-bedroom units on the upper floors, with commercial space on the ground floor along 3rd St., with four garage parking spaces included along Cherry on the first floor. Each unit would feature front and back balconies, along with a roof deck, offering what would likely be amazing views. The design features dark brick and masonry, with a curved cornice creating a modern take on the historic cornices that abound on the block.

The elevation along Cherry St. in its current form will take up nearly the entire lot area
Ten more units and another commercial space underway just a few doors down at 122 N. 3rd St.

This much larger building integrates pretty well with its surroundings, as the renderings show a structure that is respectful of the size and scale of the neighborhood architecture. One of those nearby buildings was actually home to the Queer Eye Philadelphia cast, who were often seen making their way around Old City when the show was in production. Given these design-heavy credentials, we love the way this building works within the existing built environment while offering a slightly modern take.

Future view features way less yellow
Current view looking south down 3rd St., one of the quaintest blocks in the entire city
Current view looking east on Cherry, with the Queer Eye Philadelphia house on the right
The new structure will be built back across the existing surface lot
John's Place Luncheonette at the corner back in 1977, for all your 7-Up needs
The current view of the closed La Locanda Del Ghiottone

While we are huge fans of this design, we may see things change, though we admittedly aren’t sure how. After going to the Architectural Committee of the Historical Commission next week for design approval, the development team will also be making their way to the ZBA in early April, as the lot area covered by the proposal creates a non-conforming use. Will the design turn to red brick? Will the playful cornice curve be turned to a more staid and standard approach? Will we see this get downsized and a back yard added to meet zoning requirements? All of these are on the table, as are an outright rejection of the plan and a return to the drawing board.

Zoubek Properties is also well underway on the redevelopment of a building just a couple steps to the south. We visited this near neighbor back in June, when work was getting started at 122 N. 3rd St. on the former Rodger LaPelle Gallery that closed a few years back. DesignBlendz led the design and Full Court Construction is leading the revamp of this handsome historic building. New windows have been installed and the masonry has been fixed up, with plenty of action taking place inside for these 10 units over commercial space.

While some may pine for the grittier past, we love the way that this established and historical neighborhood is getting somewhat of a makeover. To deny the growth and change of neighborhoods would create nothing more than a static reproduction of a past era of the city, which sadly happened here not long ago. The mindful and responsible development of formerly empty or underutilized buildings does not need to be seen as an attack on the local way of life; instead, a new appreciation of what was there and what’s to come can be seen as a welcome injection of life.