We’ve found ourselves in the northwest section of Philadelphia quite a bit lately, spending much of our time in the greater Roxborough area. Ridge Avenue is one road on which we’ve logged plenty of miles, having recently covered a project on the 7000 block, along with several others on surrounding blocks. Slicing through the northwestern part of the city, this thoroughfare even pre-dates the founding of Philadelphia, and was originally a Lenni Lenape trail.

We have a new project to share today, and fortunately we aren’t at risk of losing a historically significant piece of architecture as a result. Alas, this one also won’t provide the thrill of a rehab of one of the many gorgeous buildings in the area. Instead, our focus is on a one-story shopping center at 6515 Ridge Ave. which is in line for a major glow-up.

The three storefronts at 6515 Ridge Avenue on the left will be demolished, but the neighbor at 6501 to the right will remain
Bird's eye view of the site shows the context of neighborhood

This low-rise building around the corner from Roxborough High School will soon make the switch from an auto-centric shopping center with three commercial spaces to a large mixed-use project. Thanks to a recent CDR submission, we can share plans for a six-story building with 100 apartments over retail facing Ridge Avenue, with below grade parking accessed from the west side of the property. Let’s review the design from Ingram/Sagesar, shall we?

Site plan shows ground floor commercial fronting Ridge
Aerial shows how project will tower over neighbors
View from Ridge Ave. & Gorgas Ln.
View from Ridge Avenue

We certainly appreciate the added density here, and believe that the sizable retail space on Ridge Avenue will be a tremendous addition to the corridor. We’re also quite pleased about the fact that this property, which currently features about 30 surface parking spots, will transition to a condition where it will have about three dozen parking spots underground. Perhaps our only complaint about the project is that it’ll look a bit awkward sitting next to a one-story auto-garage, but a great solution to this situation would be for a developer to buy the auto shop, tear it down, and build a new mixed-use building in its place.

The path to that outcome unfortunately became much more tenuous just a couple months ago, as numerous parcels on Ridge Avenue were remapped from CMX-2.5, which allowed the project described above to move forward by right, to CA-1, which allows auto-centric commercial businesses, like shopping centers and auto garages. At 6515 Ridge Ave., the developers made their zoning application before the remapping, allowing for their project to proceed by right. Any future project next door that isn’t a retail space with a surface lot would require a zoning variance. This being the case, figure on that auto shop sticking around for years into the future. This is great news for people in the area that need work done on their cars, but not such great news from an urbanist perspective.