Unless you live nearby as we once did, we don’t know why you’d ever find yourself on the 700 block of Latona Street. But let’s just say, for fun, that you stumbled upon this block after a cheesesteak at Pat’s at some point in the last couple decades. If that happened, the sight of 706-24 Latona St. would have surely surprised and confused you. Despite the nearly 13,000 sqft size of the property, you’d see only two homes, a ton of parking, a small playground, a “zen garden,” and the only South Philly koi pond we’ve heard about.
Like we told you previously, the homes represent the first phase of a larger development which never happened. The owners of the parcel had plans in the late 1990s for two homes and a drive-aisle entrance on Wharton Street, three homes on the western side of the property to mirror the existing homes, and seven garage-front homes on Latona Street. That project never came to fruition, with the exception of two homes getting built on Wharton Street and the space that called for a drive-aisle getting filled by a third home. And the residents of the homes in the photo above enjoyed a staggering amount of open space ever since. Not a bad deal at all.
When we shared the recent history of the property with you (a pottery factory operated here way back when), we also told you that the owners of the parcel were in agreement with a developer who was seeking to demolish everything on the site and build two rows of new townhomes on the site. The initial plan called for twelve homes, but after some negotiations with the community, the unit count dropped to ten. The community still opposed the development but the ZBA gave its approval nevertheless, to our surprise.
This happened at the end of 2018, and then nothing happened here for over a year. We thought that perhaps the project was tied up in litigation, since it would obviously change the character of the block and it got approved despite neighborhood opposition. We couldn’t tell you whether that happened or not or whether there was another reason for the delay, but we can tell you that the site was cleared at some point in the last few months, thanks to a reader tip. Looking at the vacant site is actually more arresting than it was when there were homes and a koi pond here.
With everything now demolished here, we have to think it’s only a matter of time before this project starts moving. We’ll be particularly interested to see what kind of sales prices these homes sell for, since this isn’t an area that sees a ton of new construction with parking, due to the general lack of underused large lots that could accommodate such projects. That being said, there are a handful of sizable properties we can think of that are currently being used for other purposes, and if the project on Latona Street is a success, we imagine a few could turn over as a result.