175 W. Oxford St. is a large parcel bordered by 2nd Street, Hancock Street, Turner Street, and Oxford Street which covers just shy of 60K sqft. The property is less defined by what’s there- a 2 story building that was originally built for industrial use- as it is defined by the fact that 80% of the property is vacant land. As is the case with many large and largely vacant properties in this part of town, this parcel was once dominated by industry, housing a carpet factory and a wool mill during the 19th century and into the 1900s. It seems that a few sizable buildings survived into the 21st century, but the property has been in its current state for over a decade.

Crystal's Novelties at the corner of 2nd & Turner
Vacant field to the south

It’s actually a little shocking that the parcel has remained in this state to this point. After all, South Kensington has been one of the more active neighborhoods in Philadelphia in terms of development over they last ten years, and many similar properties have been snatched up and redeveloped as construction has boomed. We don’t quite know what’s been the story here in terms of ownership. As far as we can tell, it’s been owned by the same company since 2005 and that company has been satisfied, to date, to lease out space in the one building on the property to businesses like Crystal’s Novelties. But if you look at the store in the photo above, you might notice a sign in the window indicating that it’s closing. We’d wager the place is closing because the property is at last on the verge of redevelopment.

A plan came to Civic Design Review this month to build an apartment building on the property, along with some townhomes. Amazingly, the project will reuse the existing building, offering retail on the first floor and office space on the second floor. The developers will also add a couple stories to the building, creating a total of 16 apartments. To the south, there will be two rows of homes, with a total of 15 units and a mix of one-car and two-car parking. The Hancock side of the property will entail a six-story building with 132 units and a retail space on the first floor. Here are some shots from CDR, to illustrate:

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Site plan
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2nd Street rendering
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Apartment building proposed on Hancock Street

For some reason, this parcel is not zoned for commercial use, or for mixed-use, or even for industrial use. It’s zoned for single-family homes. This being the case, the project will need to get approval from the ZBA to move forward. From what we understand, the community isn’t enthralled by the project due to the density and the height so it’s unclear whether things will move forward as presented above. We’re hoping that something close to this plan gets the green light, as a little height and density is a small price to pay for the elimination of a block-ruining vacant lot. We’ll see if the ZBA agrees.