When we first saw that 1801 N. American St. would be presented to Civic Design Review last week, we assumed it was curtains for the huge warehouse that runs from N. American St. to 2nd St. and presents a blank wall on the west side of 2nd St. for almost a whole city block. This prospect was incredibly exciting, as the redevelopment of this building could make 2nd Street much more pedestrian friendly and perhaps spur other projects in the area. But our assumption was a bit off base.

IMG_7337 2
Looking down the 1800 block of N. 2nd St.

Assuming 1801 N. American St. project moves forward, 2nd Street will certainly improve, but not in the fashion we anticipated. This property is unexpectedly enormous, covering over three and a half acres. And not only does it encompass the aforementioned industrial building, but it also includes a sizable and fairly well maintained empty space just south of the building that runs, for a small portion, onto 2nd Street. The project doesn’t impact the building, but instead calls for the redevelopment of this vacant lot.

View of the property from N. American Street
View on 2nd Street
IMG_7364 2
Warehouses to the north and apartments in the distance
Screen Shot 2020-12-14 At 7.56.20 PM
Site for the project

The proposal calls for a new five-story building which will have most of its frontage on N. American Street with a section of the building extending to 2nd Street. On the first floor, we can expect 11K sqft of commercial space on American, 2,500 sqft of retail on 2nd, and 60 parking spaces. Set back from American Street, we see four stories of apartments, making for a total of 110 units. Harman Deutsch Ohler did the design work, and you can see some renderings here:

Screen Shot 2020-12-14 At 7.55.51 PM
Project rendering
Screen Shot 2020-12-14 At 7.55.53 PM
Looking at the project from the south
Screen Shot 2020-12-14 At 7.55.49 PM
The view on 2nd Street
Screen Shot 2020-12-14 At 7.55.47 PM
On the terrace

Of course, we think this looks great. We appreciate the density, the retail, and the fact that the project will fill space that’s been vacant for quite some time. Though the property sits on N. American St., it’s still very much in the thick of South Kensington development we’ve seen in recent years. And it’s half a dozen blocks from Frankford Avenue, so you have to think that most of the people living here will be spending their leisure dollars close to home. For artists and artisans, a NextFab Studios location is right across the street and Crane Arts is just a couple blocks to the south, so the location could also be rather convenient in that regard.

While we give the project a thumbs up, we wonder whether the Planning Commission and/or ZBA will do the same. The property is zoned ICMX, which makes sense given that N. American Street is an industrial corridor. Residential uses are prohibited in this zoning district, and the City has shown a desire to maintain the corridor as industrial. Especially with the apartment section of the building set back from N. American St. and fronting 2nd Street, we think the developers could try to establish that this building really lives on 2nd Street, especially if the commercial space on the western side of the building is occupied by a light industrial tenant. We hope that this argument proves convincing, as we’d really like to see this project move forward.