In July, 2006 hundreds of firefighters battled a blaze for hours at 1222 Locust St. By the time the fire was doused at the Lincoln Apartments Building, designed in 1892 by George H. Fettus, a contemporary of Frank Furness, five floors of apartments had collapsed like a V in the middle of the building to the ground floor. Since then, the handsome six-story building has existed in a state of disrepair.

But a shell of Philly history will be preserved when architects from Cecil Baker and Associates renovate the building in a project, slated to begin next spring. Plans designate the creation of 44 units, making for a total of 50 beds in the form of six studio apartments, 32 one bedroom apartments and six two bedroomers, according to David Fante, vice-chair of the Washington Square West (WSW) Civic Association Zoning Committee. The exterior of the building will be maintained. A metal and glass ornamentation with a modern theme will be installed on the top of the building.

In September, members of the WSW Zoning Committee voted to not oppose the project, contingent on a few items. Those items were no loitering signs posted on the building, that the owner informs the members of WSW once a construction firm has been selected for the project, a point person to be assigned to communicate with the association during construction and for the architects to submit the sixth-floor exterior metal panel for approval.

Prior to the fire, architects presented a 46-unit project to an unsatisfied WSW, which didn’t care for subpar designs with a layout that was too dense. And while the total number of units in this proposal has been reduced by only two, the number of beds has decreased by 16.

Since the fire, “the project would kind of start and stop, and start and stop again,” said Fante. “It is my understanding the owner [Jacob Ungar] has finally settled with the insurance company and the project is moving forward.” In the past, abandoned projects included plans for a 93-unit hotel, he said.

Considering the transformation of the foodie-district on 13th St. in the past decade, this project comes at an interesting time and fortuitous period in the development of the western edge of the Washington Square West neighborhood. With the renovation of the Oddfellows building a block away, the recent opening of NEST at the end of the street, and some other exciting nearby development possibly in the pipeline, it makes sense that the developer is finally moving forward at this site. We’re just hoping that the interior finishes do justice to the building’s historic facade.

–Lou Mancinelli