Though commonly known as the commercial thoroughfare in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, Germantown Avenue actually begins in Northern Liberties, running between the two Piazza complexes. Traveling just a couple of blocks to the north, Germantown Ave. transforms completely, with vacant land and several blighted buildings on either side of the street. Between Master and Jefferson Streets in South Kensington, the entire west-side of the street appears to be abandoned.

West side, southern end

Western side

Mixed-use buildings

West side, northern end

Beginning at the intersection of Master & Germantown, there’s an old carriage home-type structure followed by a large abandoned lot. Next comes 1418 Germantown Ave., an abandoned one-floor garage followed by a fenced in lot that encompasses 1420-26 Germantown. The owner of the garage owns part of that lot, if our addresses are correct, according to the OPA. After the lot comes four abandoned mixed-use properties, all with vacant commercial spaces on the first floor. A fenced overgrown vacant lot closes the block at its northwest side.

The east side of the street is definitely not as glum. Still, its apparently occupied buildings look faded. The west side of the block could have been used to shoot the Hamsterdam episodes of The Wire, and the two warehouses on the eastern side look like good candidates for loft conversions.

East side of the block, southern end. Is this building in use?

It’s a little unexpected that this block looks so rough, considering the Northern Liberties boom, the waves of Fishtown gentrification, and the improvement that we’ve seen on nearby blocks in South Kensington. Somehow, this block has been left out, like the kid on the team who didn’t get picked but keeps showing up every day.

So what gives on this block? What would neighborhood residents like to see here? A developer could transform the entire west-side of the block into something, provided they could convince over a dozen owners to sell. Alternately, a non-profit could ostensibly do something here, provided they could convince the City to use eminent domain to take the lots and blighted buildings.

How about a multi-family residential building with some green space in the middle? Maybe some more artists lofts for the neighborhood? Could some commercial element succeed on this block? Whatever the case, as folks in neighborhoods across the city are called to offer their input in district plans as part of Phila2035, this block is one with enormous potential.

–Lou Mancinelli