Affordable Apartment Building Could Fill Lancaster Ave. Vacancy

Last week, we were traveling up Lancaster Avenue to investigate a new project that’s planned on the 4400 block. As we headed northwest on the corridor, a large vacant lot caught our eye on the 4100 block. We hadn’t noticed the large lot at 4112 Lancaster Ave. previously – perhaps because it wasn’t always quite so significant. Historically, this 15K sqft parcel was divided into a number of smaller properties, and until relatively recently, there was a double-wide and very unappealing building in the middle of the parcel which was home to a combination furniture and electronics store.

In the past

In 2020, the store relocated to another space on Lancaster Avenue, and the building was demoed soon after. Literally nobody will miss this unfortunate edifice, though it’s a shame that the mural on its eastern wall is now lost.

Current view

Developers consolidated the properties back in 2018, and have been slowly moving toward a redevelopment plan that will add new retail, some density in the form of 37 units, and affordability to the block. The project has two names, Lancaster 41 and Estelle B. Richman Place, named both for the block where it’s located and a former Senior Advisor for the US HUD Secretary. It’s a fitting tribute to a person who has championed affordable housing for decades and also had a tremendous impact at PHA.

To be clear though, this is a private affordable housing development, not a PHA project. Developer Constellar Corporation will utilize Low Income Housing Tax Credits to fund affordable rentals, with rents ranging from $265 to $870/month. Four units will be for tenants making 20% of AMI, nineteen units will be for tenants who making 50% of AMI, and fourteen units will be for tenants making 60% of AMI. Haley Donovan, a firm that has done architecture work for several affordable projects in the past, is doing the design work here.

Project rendering

The developers pulled building permits in March of last year, but you can see that work hasn’t started yet. It’s not really such a surprise that it’s taking some time for this one to get off the ground, as affordable developments inherently entail jumping through hoops and dealing with multiple layers of local, state, and federal bureaucracy. We can’t imagine that two years of a global pandemic have helped move things along, either. But here’s to hoping that the project is able to start moving forward at some point soon.

Down the block

While we’re here, allow us to provide a non-update on a building we love that’s located just a few doors away. Back in the fall of 2020, we brought the old Leader Theatre at 4102 Lancaster Ave. to your attention, noting that some cladding had come down from the front of the building, revealing the largely intact facade of the old cinema. We were hopeful that some kind of adaptive reuse project would emerge for the property, and in fact the owners indicated that such a plan might be in the cards. Alas, in the year plus that has elapsed since then, we don’t see any new permits on the property, and we don’t know about any imminent plans. That being said, it’s at least good news that the building hasn’t been demoed in the interim, as we can continue to hold out hope that the old theatre will be restored to its former glory, somewhere down the line.