We’ve been banging the drum for Washington Avenue west of Broad for a long time, liking it so much we even moved our office there. Finally, after years of waiting, the corridor is taking steps in the right direction. Framing is underway at Lincoln Square at Broad & Washington, and this project will eventually create a few hundred apartments and over 100K sqft of retail. Way to the west, at 2501 Washington Ave., there are plans for a mix of homes and apartments, and construction recently started up again after a lull. In between those projects though, at 2300 Washington Ave., is one of our least favorite projects in the city. We’re referring, of course, to the Extra Space Storage Facility, which is now getting close to completion. Check it out, in all its crapitude.
In case you haven’t been following the project, this property was sitting vacant for a number of years and was purchased for $1M back in 2014. It was shortly before the sale closed that we told you about plans for this 60′-tall building, which the owners were able to build by-right, without input from the community or the Planning Commission. For a relatively simple project, it sure has taken a long time to get built. But now that it’s close to completion, the terribleness of the structure has become clearly evident. And as bad as it is from Washington Avenue, it’s even worse from the back, on the 2300 block of Alter Street. Despite the presence of the massive building, the new homes on the block are still selling, with prices slowly creeping up toward $600K.
Perhaps in response to community outrage over this building, Councilman Johnson introduced an ordinance in March of 2015 that prohibited most by-right industrial uses on Washington Avenue. At the time, Plan Philly called the ordinance “a temporary bulwark to keep certain uses from popping up on the corridor while the [Planning] Commission works on longer-term planning with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office and community groups on either side of the avenue.” Yet here we are, over two years later, and nothing has happened on this front. Washington Avenue remains as it was back then, primarily zoned for industrial use, and both of the major projects we mentioned above are only happening because of spot zoning ordinances.
We wonder, what is taking so long to rezone Washington Avenue? Every day that passes without Washington Avenue being remapped for mixed-use adds to the risk that another lousy project like the storage facility will pop up along the corridor. Yeah, we know there’s an ordinance, but we aren’t convinced that an ordinance prohibiting industrial use on a property zoned for industrial use would hold up on appeal. So while another storage facility isn’t possible by right, a determined operator could potentially get approval for such a project with some patience and a solid attorney. Of course, remapping would eliminate this possibility, but if it hasn’t happened by now we don’t know when/if it’s gonna happen.
On the plus side, if you need a place to store your junk and you live near 23rd & Washington, you’ll soon have a very convenient storage facility close to your home. Truly a cause for celebration.