As the stretch of Front Street between Girard and Kensington Avenues has seen a development boom over the last several years, numerous vacant lots and buildings still remain on this 1.5 mile stretch. The former Ninth National Bank at 1952-58 N. Front St. might be the most prominent vacant building on Front Street these days, mostly due to the property's striking architecture which inspires us to dream about how amazing these two buildings must have been back in the day. Hidden City got inside a couple years ago and revealed an interior that looks as bad as you'd expect after decades of neglect and exposure to the elements.
A few years ago, Women’s Community Revitalization Project was pursuing a plan to demolish the buildings and replace them with affordable housing rentals. Neighbors pushed back against the project, wishing to preserve the buildings and concerned about the design of the project that was to replace it. About a year and a half ago, Philadelinquency reported that the WCRP project was dead at this location and that the folks from Onion Flats would be purchasing the property and reusing the existing buildings. With WCRP finding a vacant lot nearby to construct the project originally slated for this location, it seemed like a win-win outcome.
But if you check in on the property today, it still looks the same.
The image above comes from Trend. The reason we were able to get said image is that the property is now listed for sale. For $1.8M. At that price, we're not sure that any developer would bite on a vacant lot at this corner, let alone two buildings with amazing bones that need millions of dollars to bring them back to the glory of their past. We'd bet that whoever ends up buying this property will tear down the buildings after all, which won't be an issue since they're somehow still not listed on the Historic Register, to our knowledge. And while new construction will be an improvement over the blight of the last few decades, it will indeed be a shame to lose these wonderful buildings. Has anyone in the neighborhood heard anything about why the Onion Flats plan isn't happening? Can anyone think of a way that these buildings could be preserved for the future, keeping in mind that historic designation would severely limit adaptive reuse possibilities?