Considering its industrial history, South Kensington has numerous white elephants, though the former Gretz Brewery at 1524 Germantown Ave. might be the most obvious. We first wrote about this crumbling collection of industrial buildings back in 2012, sharing some history about the brewery that once occupied the property and wondering about its future. We noted, at the time, that South Kensington was seeing a burst of interest from developers and speculated about the potential for adaptive reuse or demolition at the site. Neither outcome has come to pass just yet, and the property is still sitting vacant and blighted today.
In 2019, we shared that the property was going to Civic Design Review in advance of plans from Rufo Companies for a 220-unit residential conversion. Maybe conversion isn’t the right word, since the existing buildings are generally in terrible condition and it appears that most of the project will entail repurposed facades in front of new construction. We shared some renderings at the time, which showed the preservation and restoration of those facades, and the numerous overbuilds to accommodate the desired density. Check ’em out:
Maybe the project was going to take a long time no matter what, but we have to think that Covid set back the timeline some for this development, and like we said, nothing has happened here as of yet. That being said, it appears that construction could be on the horizon, as the developers are working this summer to get the Historical Commission to issue final approval on their plans for the site. As part of this process, they’ve made some minor changes to the design, lightening up some of the materials and increasing some of the setbacks. The revised renderings are, from where we sit, a step in a positive direction.
While it’s exciting to see new renderings for this project, the fact that the developers are actively engaged with the Historical Commission to fulfill a permitting prerequisite is a strong indication that the project is likely to move forward in the near future. Of course, it’s also possible that Rufo is simply pushing to get permits in hand before the end of the year and the change to the tax abatement rules. But we’re going to err on the side of optimism and guess that the tax abatement is only part of the equation and that this developer is eager to start working here, if for no other reason than to avoid future deterioration of what’s left of the old brewery.
One other note, it appears that the density went down some as part of the zoning process, and the new plans call for 200 units instead of 220. This is still a great outcome for this site, where at one time it looked like the entire parcel could be razed in favor of a townhome project. Considering all the ongoing and upcoming multi-family development in this part of town, the current plan feels like the appropriate path and a nearly optimal outcome, especially considering some of the seriously inferior alternatives.