Downey’s Is Down at Front & South, Apartments Up Next

South Street has long been one of the key entertainment districts in the entire city, with a long history as a cultural hotbed. Things haven’t been all hunky-dory for this stretch lately, with key vacancies, unfortunate fires, and even more unfortunate issues with violence taking away some of the shine of the street that was the coolest place on the planet during our teenage years. Back then, going to a show at the TLA that was being recorded for a live album and grabbing a slice at Lorenzo and Son’s was the peak of (our idea of) coolness.

Unfortunately, the large Abbotts Square apartment at the eastern end of the corridor remains empty after years of rumors that a grocery store was soon to come, creating a huge hole in the pedestrian presence here. Fortunately, a property at the very far eastern edge at 526 S. Front St. is about to inject some life into the stretch. Formerly home to Downey’s bar since the 1970s, demo is now underway to make room for a new eastern entryway to South Street.

Building as it looked pre-Downey's in the 1950s
The empty Downey's from one of our previous visits
The current view, with demo charging full steam ahead

What’s coming now is a six-story building featuring 18 units on the upper floors, with ground floor commercial space as well. The Ambit Architecture-designed building will consist mostly of brick, with black-framed windows rising the full height of the building, which reaches its peak with a sloped roof. While we are sad to see this old-if-not-historically-protected building go, this is exactly the sort of project we love to see rising in its place. Let’s check out those renderings to see what’s in store.

View looking north up Front St., with the new building looking big on the corner
View of the Front St. facade, looking from the east

This project should provide a huge shot in the arm to this end of South Street. Adding density along this stretch is perhaps the best way to increase foot traffic and keep the energy of the area intact. We would love to see more projects like this rising the length of South Street to get back to the vibrant feel of the past. With the recently updated Bridget Foy’s just a block away and with the new pedestrian bridge connecting to the reimagined Penn’s Landing Park, we would imagine that there will be plenty more people in the area over the coming years. Let’s hope that the commercial space here is something of a destination so that this famous street maintains the feel that makes this area so special.

Current view of the South Street bridge over I-95
Future view of the new South Street bridge, which will directly connect with the Delaware River Trail