The PECO substation at 538 Federal St. has stood proudly for decade after decade, though most recently all that standing has been without much action on the inside. After first checking out the building way back in 2011 (also known as the last time the Phillies were any good), we came back five years later in November 2016 with hopes that a plan for a residential reuse was moving forward, after efforts for projects of 16 units and 11 units never came to pass. As you can see, this property bounded by Federal Street to the north, 6th Street to the west, and Manton Street to the south has looked nearly identical over the past 60 years.

The same view today, looking remarkably similar after 60 years
An aerial of the neighborhood, with the building highlighted in yellow
The view back in 2016
A view of the property from 1962, looking southeast
Another current view, showing how the back of the building steps down

But thankfully, this time, it seems…like something is happening. The property changed hands last year, at a price even higher than the $1.6 million that we found to be a little dear back in 2016. Since then, new owners/developers Zoubek Properties have stepped in with plans to move ahead with an adaptive reuse of the property. In March of this year, zoning documents were issued for a 21-unit project, which utilized both the moderate-income bonus and the green roof bonus to bump up the allowable density for the CMX-2 zoned property. This plan from Level Nine Architects also included an addition to the back of the building, four artist studios in the commercial space on the north side of the structure, and no parking.

Elevation drawing of the front facade remains pretty much the same
Side elevations show addition on the east side of the building away from S. 6th St.
Site plan shows location of commercial space outlined in yellow; unit count has since been reduced

So why are we bringing this to your attention here in November if plans were approved in March? Well in just the past several days, a new zoning document was issued, lowering the unit count to 18 from the previous 21. While the green roof bonus is sticking around, the developers are no longer pursuing the moderate-income bonus, which would have necessitated a $258K payment to the affordable housing fund in order to pick up the extra three units. While we are bummed to see the affordable housing payment cut and the density decreased, we understand the economics of a project like this have surely changed since the original plans came together back in the era of wildly different interest rates. But don’t worry: if you’re looking for a bit of stability, the loading dock for the 1st Oriental Supermarket still sits to the north across Federal St. just as it did a decade ago. Thank goodness, some things never change.

The loading area of the 1st Oriental Supermarket immediately to the north