Not to beat a dead horse here, but we’re none too fond of surface parking lots. We get it, people come into Philadelphia from out of town and street parking is not sufficient. And those cars have to go somewhere. Downtown though, parking garages are infinitely preferable to surface lots, which are never an efficient use of limited and highly desirable real estate. Small surface lots, like the one at 36-42 S. 2nd St., are perhaps most frustrating, because they don’t even take that many cars off the street and represent relatively low hanging fruit, in terms of redevelopment.

Surface lot at 36 S. 2nd St.

Given that this parking lot is located in Old City, of course the property has some history to it. Amazingly, this little parking lot has existed since the late 1980s. Over time, the three buildings that once stood here were torn down, with 36 S. 2nd St. disappearing around 1975, its southern neighbor coming down in the late 1970s, and the awesome edifice at 40-42 S. 2nd St. meeting the wrecking ball in 1987.

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View of the property back in 1895
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View of the corner in 1972

Remarkably, it wasn’t until 2003 that Old City was registered as a local historic district, so tearing down these buildings wasn’t terribly complicated when it happened. Today it would be challenging but probably possible to demolish the two northern buildings, and darn near impossible to demolish the southern building. It’s a shame it wasn’t able to stick around for another decade and a half, otherwise it would surely still be standing.

But alas, other than a nice looking mural that’s been here for the last five years or so, there’s been nothing exciting about this property since the days of the Reagan administration. Since we’re writing about the property, you can probably guess that things should soon be changing here for the better. Earlier this month, developers pulled permits to build a new mixed-use building, with 66 apartments and ground floor retail. CANNO Design is responsible for the architecture, and they’ve come up with a concept for a modern building which would still feel compatible with the surrounding buildings in the historic district. Because the buildings at the site were demoed before the district was adopted, the Historical Commission only has an advisory role with this project, and the HC staff indicated a comfort level with the look of the building, but perhaps a desire for a shorter edifice.

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Here's what's coming

From where we sit, there’s a six-story building just across Trotters Alley to the north, so we don’t see why the proposed building at 36-42 S. 2nd St. would be any kind of an issue.

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Context just to the north

As we said, this project already has a zoning permit, indicating it will be proceeding as a matter of right. The Historical Commission will need to weigh in, and ditto Civic Design Review, we believe, but neither of those boards are able to provide binding feedback on this site. This tells us that the project is very likely to move forward as shown above, and the surface parking lot’s days are surely numbered. Can’t say we’ll shed any tears.