Even though most residential properties in greater Center City don’t meet the size requirements prescribed by the Zoning Code, most of them at least have a few characteristics that you can reliably predict. They are generally somewhere between 14 and 20 feet wide. Shapewise, you can usually anticipate a rectangle. Mileage may vary on expected depth, but somewhere between 50 feet and 100 feet is probably a safe bet. Looking at 331 Reed St. just passing by, you’d have every reason to expect that this vacant lot is pretty similar to so many others around town. But this isn’t the case.
Most obviously, it’s on the wider end of the spectrum, measuring 20′ in width. Like its neighbors on the north side of the 300 block of Reed Street, it’s extremely deep, running about 140′ to the north. If this were merely a sorta wide and rather deep lot, of course, we wouldn’t bother bringing it to your attention. So here’s the unusual bit- while the property is single-wide in the front, it’s triple-wide in the rear, resulting in a nearly 5,000 sqft flag lot that’s shaped like a gas pump. We know the yard was double-wide since at least 1895, preceding the time when a Lithuanian Church worshipped here during the middle of the 20th century.
Developers have owned the property for a number of years and in 2013 changed the lot lines and took part of the rear yard of 333 Reed St. onto this property. In doing so, they proposed a new home built entirely in the “rear yard” of the 331 Reed St., with a driveway coming off of Reed. It appears that this proposal got the necessary variance from the ZBA but for whatever reason, it never moved forward. And so the lot continues to sit vacant, as it has for a couple decades.
But maybe here’s where you come in. We understand that the property is currently listed for sale off-market, at a $450K asking price. That’s waaay too expensive for land at this location to only build a single home. Unfortunately, this large parcel is only zoned for single-family use and any effort to build multi-family here would require a zoning variance. We don’t expect the neighbors would be stoked to support additional density here, even considering the size of the property.
And that’s a shame, because this is a pretty desirable section of South Philly which has seen quite a bit of construction over the last few years. Most prominent is the Southwark on Reed project just around the corner, which added almost a hundred new homes on the site of the former Mount Sinai Hospital. Of course, all of those homes came with at least one, and sometimes two parking spots, reducing a source of neighborhood opposition. At 331 Reed St., it’s probably possible to build two homes in the rear yard or maybe four condos with parking on the ground floor, but that would require a curb cut and some creative architecture. Most importantly, either of those plans would require a zoning variance, which we don’t believe would be forthcoming. Perhaps most likely would be something that resembles the plan from several years ago, maybe for an owner occupant. But even for something like that, we’d expect it’ll be a couple years minimum before we see anything move forward.