Update: Condos, Not Rentals, Planned for 21st & Federal

Yesterday, we told you about plans from developer Roman Mosheyev to build fifteen new apartment units on a long-vacant lot at 21st & Federal. After Mosheyev’s presentation last night at the South Philadelphia H.O.M.E.S. meeting, we have some clarifications and some thoughts to share on the matter.

The lot

Change number one: According to the permits that the developer has applied for, he originally planned for fifteen units here, but he has revised those plans to only build fourteen. Change number two: In constructing four buildings, we were assuming that two would be facing Federal Street and two would face Annin Street. Not so- in fact, all four buildings will be facing 21st Street. Change number three (the biggie): These units will be sold as condos, not rented out as apartments.

Two years ago, Mosheyev built six homes as rentals on Annin Street, next to the north side of the lot

It’s change number three that’s particularly interesting to us. From what we can tell, these units would represent the first wave of condos to be built in the Point Breeze neighborhood. And in an area where many people desire affordable housing, condos would certainly seem to be one possible solution that meets that need without requiring government subsidies or bankrupting a private developer. Less than a decade ago in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, when homes were starting to sell in the $300-400K range, developers on Christian Street started chopping up large homes into condos that sold for under $100K. These condos gave folks who were no longer able to afford a whole house in the neighborhood the opportunity to buy something if they were so inclined. Needless to say, there are no longer any condos in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood at that price point.

While we don’t know the outcome of last night’s vote, Mosheyev was harshly questioned by several members of the community. People didn’t like the designs of the buildings (they look similar to his homes on Annin), they didn’t appreciate that there was no access to the rear yard, and several people were upset about the number of units. For a minute, the parking debate made us feel like we were in Graduate Hospital. Weird.

Not only would these condo units provide the most affordable non-subsidized new construction the neighborhood has seen in years, but they would also provide a much-needed shot of density to the area. As the residential infrastructure in the neighborhood has improved, the commercial elements have lagged behind considerably. Sure, a few new businesses have opened of late, but the neighborhood’s primary commercial corridor, Point Breeze Avenue, has mostly remained trapped in the past.

1200 block of Point Breeze Avenue

The key to attracting new commerce to the area and filling the vacancies on Point Breeze Avenue is having enough customers nearby to support neighborhood businesses. Unfortunately, the density that you get from exclusively offering single family homes in the neighborhood is not sufficient to really drive this turnaround. It’s density that you get from projects like the one proposed by Mr. Mosheyev that can help accelerate the recovery of this commercial corridor, even if it means that near neighbors might sometimes have to park a few doors down from their house rather than right out front.

We don’t know whether this project got support from the community, but we hope it did. Not only would it be a boon for commerce in the neighborhood, but it would potentially encourage other developers to take a similar approach. Just think about what a couple hundred new residents in the next couple of years could do for new and existing businesses in Point Breeze.