The more things change, the more things stay the same is something that rings true more and more to us these days, with real estate being no exception. Take for example the bustling, action-packed Vine St. in Old City, where just a month back we took a moment to soak in the change to the 200 block. But we are back once again on the same block, where a property that averted our attention before is now on our radar even more than the Phillies postponed Opening Day.

Looking east from N. American & Vine St. at all the new construction

Most of what you see is new within the last decade, with much of it new within the last couple of years. New construction apartments and rowhomes now line the eastern end of the block, though you can see a set of hold outs mid-block if you look at the photo above. Those hold outs would be 208-12 Vine St., three adjacent buildings that are contributing assets to the Old City Historic District. Hidden City reported back in October that these buildings were to be demolished, as the Historical Commission deemed it was cost prohibitive to adaptively-reuse these structures – something that supersedes even historic designation. Per a vote, the demo was approved unanimously for the property, which goes all the way to New St. to the south.

A closer look at 208-12 Vine St.
A Wes Anderson-approved view
John Stortz & Son signage still remains
The back of the buildings, facing south along New St.

Which leads us to today, when a zoning permit for demolition was issued. Public record suggests that the building is still owned by family of the founder whose name graces the roof line, but the changing times call for a change in space, it seems. The buildings, while definitely charming, clearly would need a huge amount of work to get them up to snuff again, and the facades have been coated in stucco, likely covering the original brick. The two end buildings were constructed in 1780, with the middle building joining the party in 1870, meaning that the interiors are probably pretty rough. But don’t listen to us – the consultants and Commission thought so as well, leading the way to this zoning permit.

One condition of the demolition approval, however, was a zoning application being submitted and approved; another was that financing approval was also in place – basically meaning that a legitimate project with legitimate funds must be in the works before demo would be OKed. And what that might consist of for this CMX-3, 0.2 acre property? According to a listing on Loopnet, 24 residential units with 10 parking spaces, or perhaps high-end rowhomes. Also on that listing? A little banner saying UNDER CONTRACT, meaning this $3.5-million listing could see some action on site soon.

That leaves us with only one truly historic structure on this part of the block, and that would be just across the street at 209 Vine. This building, thankfully, is slated to stay put, with its restoration leading to three units. Immediately next door, two more units are joining the already completed building that rounds out this 49-unit project from Greythorne and designed by Canno.

209 Vine St., soon to have a new neighbor next door
07-209 Vine
Checking out what's to come

It is somewhat bittersweet to balance the yearning for nostalgia with the realities that old buildings are sometimes in crappy shape. Will a touch of the charm of Old City be lost when these structures of yesteryear make room for what will likely be several stories of red brick? Yeah, yeah it will. But until there is some influx in government funds to make every reuse feasible, we should understand that this outcome is sometimes how it goes, even in one of our city’s most historic neighborhoods.