Germantown Avenue in South Kensington has undergone incredible change over the last several years, starting at Girard Avenue and running all the way up to Berks Street, where Germantown Ave. is abruptly and temporarily interrupted by a shopping center. We’ve detailed numerous projects along this street over time, including Liberty Square, countless projects on the 1400 block, and a metal-panel-tastic addition at Berks Street. Today though, we turn our attention to the 1600 block of Germantown, where we can provide some updates on a couple of projects that we’re covered in the past.

First, let’s look at 1600-16 Germantown Ave., which we previously covered a little over two years ago. Back then, we told you that the former rooming house at 1600 Germantown Ave. would be demolished and that a five-unit building would rise in its place. We also mentioned that the same developers owned the vacant lots immediately to the north and they intended to build six duplexes and two single family homes. All told, the project was to entail the construction of 19 new units.

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In the past

Somewhere along the line, the plans changed some. Instead of demoing the building at the corner, the developers instead decided to keep it around and convert it into a triplex. In keeping with the triplex theme, the developers scrapped the duplexes and the homes and instead opted for half a dozen triplexes. Ultimately, this resulted in a development with one fewer unit, but one that probably makes a little more sense and manages to maintain one of the few buildings that were left on this block. And if you throw in the duplex next door, being built by a different party, we actually have 20 new units in this little pocket, which we’d say is a nice win.

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Current view
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New construction triplexes

There’s more to share on this block, right across the street. More than three years ago, we told you that developers had demoed an old warehouse at 1613 Germantown Ave., with plans to replace it with a mixed-use building with 48 units, retail, and a few parking spots. We also shared that the building would have a rather industrial character to it, keeping with the tradition of the neighborhood.

Old rendering

As was the case with the project across the street, the 1613 Germantown Ave. project also went through some changes. The rental apartment count went down to 40 units. Seven units are being marketed as live/work spaces, with commercial frontage on Germantown Ave. and living space on the 2nd floor. Also, the building has an 8,000 sqft co-working space that’s available to residents, which sounds like an incredibly attractive amenity in a pre-pandemic world and might be even more attractive now, assuming that there are opportunities to use the space in a socially distant fashion. We should also mention, the design changed a wee bit as well.

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The aesthetic is changed some

Both of these projects are contributing to the ever changing Germantown Ave., and are joined by some other projects up the block which we’ll update soon. Of course, the white elephant in the area (and the neighborhood as a whole) is the blighted former Gretz Brewery, located right across the street. It looked like this property was finally getting redeveloped about two years ago, and we see a zoning permit got pulled in the summer of 2019. Unfortunately, we don’t see any permitting activity since then. Sure, Germantown Ave. will continue to evolve and improve in the coming years- but until the Gretz property finally takes a turn toward redevelopment, it will continue to drag down properties on surrounding blocks. Perhaps 2021 will be the year that things change for this historic but dilapidated edifice.