From what we understand, the Point Breeze Avenue commercial corridor was once an amazing neighborhood amenity, with such a selection of stores that neighbors rarely needed to venture to Center City for shopping purchases. Today, this is not the case, as the Breeze is home to more empty retail space and vacant land than businesses. In fits and starts, the corridor is reawakening, as a handful of new establishments have opened over the last few years, like On Point Bistro, Tasty Toast, Kind Institute, and most recently, Mattei Family Pizza. But Point Breeze Avenue still has light years to travel before it can be favorably compared to its similarly diagonal sister street, Passyunk Avenue.
We've been more focused on the northern blocks of the corridor, thinking that new businesses will drift from north to south in the same way that development has moved through the neighborhood. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that developers were looking to build a pair of mixed-use buildings on the 1600 block on Point Breeze Avenue. This block has more vacant lots than existing buildings, but it has been home to the Point Breeze Popup Beer Garden for the last couple years. The zoning notices at 1606 and 1650 Point Breeze Ave. sit on either side of the beer garden.
The zoning notices indicate plans for four-story buildings with ground-floor retail and three apartments on the upper floors. Given the resistance to three story buildings in this neighborhood and the rejected plan for a grocery store on the 1200 block, we wonder whether these projects have any hope at the ZBA.
And this is part of the reason why Point Breeze Avenue has lagged while the surrounding neighborhood has seen unprecedented levels of development. Objectively, four-story buildings with retail make sense on this corridor, but any developer looking to pursue such a project needs to take on zoning risk. If the corridor were rezoned to allow for greater height and density, we believe we'd see a ton of developer interest, many new buildings, and a host of new businesses. Unfortunately, we don't believe this rezoning will be happening any time soon and as a result we'll continue to see Point Breeze Avenue struggle to reach its potential. In the meantime, we'll hope for the best for the projects planned for the 1600 block. We would love to see 'em get built.