It’s a profoundly odd thing that the southwest corner of 3rd & Christian has been sitting vacant for over a decade. After all, Queen Village is a highly desirable neighborhood where new construction homes, such as they’re built, are selling for seven figures on most blocks. But the past and present at 3rd & Christian are a little unique, and help to explain the vacancy situation.

As you’re probably aware, the four square blocks from Christian Street to Washington Avenue, 3rd Street to 5th Street, is covered almost entirely the Southwark Homes which are owned and operated by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. This site was put together in the 1960s, as the City condemned most of the properties on these blocks, demoing them and replacing them with apartment towers. For whatever reason, a small pocket of properties on the northeastern edge of the site remained privately owned. At some point in the early 2000s, a developer bought up all the properties, with an eye toward market rate residential redevelopment.

Salter Mews, a 20-home project on the south side of the property, was delayed some due to the financial crisis in 2008 and was eventually completed about half a dozen years ago. The original plan for the project was to sell the townhomes, with initial prices at $650K. Those asking prices eventually dropped to $479K, and when only one townhome found a buyer, it turned into a rental project, with whole homes renting for around $3,000 per month.

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Vacant lot
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Salter Mews next door

The developer that built Salter Mews also owns the lot at 3rd & Christian, and ostensibly planned for another collection of townhomes in a second phase. Given the difficult road for the first 20 homes however, it should come as no surprise that the developer put things on pause to formulate a new plan. Still, in 2018, we wondered about the property and hoped that something would move forward here. Less than a year later, we told you that indeed, a second phase was in the works for this site, and that the developer was looking to build an apartment building here instead of homes. Those plans called for a forty-unit apartment building with 11 parking spots. This seemed to us to be a very reasonable plan for the site.

The neighborhood group had a different opinion, though. And given that the property is zoned for single-family use and the project required a zoning variance, the community had a voice in the matter. Predictably, neighbors were nonplussed about the proposed parking ratio, and even voted against a revised plan for 33 units and 20 parking spots. Ultimately, the project went to the ZBA and received a variance, with the unit count coming down to 30 and the parking count coming back down to 11.

A reader reached out to us and send along renderings of the project from Ambit, which you can see below:

View on Christian
View on 3rd Street

This is a nice design for a small apartment building, with big factory style windows, bays breaking up the facade, and a nice dose of masonry. That being said, the building feels a little stubby. We understand that the developers are building as high and with as much density as the ZBA is permitting, but boy does this building ever feel like it needs a fourth story. So while we’ll be glad to see this curiously vacant lot finally fill in, we suspect we’ll continue to feel like this is a missed opportunity for some added height and density as the construction process moves forward.