Parkside is one of our favorite Philadelphia neighborhoods for a few reasons. First, it sits next to Fairmount Park, hence the name. Not only does the section of Fairmount Park next to Parkside include wide open green space and countless mature trees, it also contains what little is left of the US Centennial Exposition, held in 1876, ‘natch. Memorial Hall, home to the Please Touch Museum, is one of those vestiges.
While Memorial Hall is a fabulous building, Parkside actually possesses an embarrassment of riches, architecturally speaking. Most of the neighborhood was constructed around the time of the Centennial, and as a result many Parkside homes are fine examples of Victorian architecture. We can’t even count the number of buildings in Parkside with amazing architectural details, but it’s enough that the neighborhood was added as a district to the National Register of Historic Places back in the 80s.
Unfortunately, Parkside experienced a long period of decline and divestment in the second half of the 20th century. And while most of the buildings in the neighborhood have survived the ravages of the last hundred fifty or so years, a large number are somewhere between under-loved and in need of dramatic restoration. We’ve slowly started to see developers move into this neighborhood in recent years, surely attracted to the wonderful bones of the old buildings as well as the perks of the location. But projects have been few and far between and many buildings are seemingly vacant at this time, and there are a fair number of vacant lots to be found as well.
At 4306 Parkside Ave. we find a vacant triangular lot, though this lot is very well maintained and provides great views of a mural honoring the history of the Philadelphia Stars, a Negro League team that played from 1933 through 1948. The Stars played at the 44th & Parkside Ballpark, which was located across the street from this property, at a site that’s currently a charter school. This lot was once home to a building, but it was demoed about 20 years ago.
A few different developers have owned this lot over the last several years, and the current owners are now looking to build a mixed-use building at the site. The plans call for a six-story building with retail on the first floor and 15 units above. They presented their plan to the ZBA yesterday, from what we understand, people were not thrilled with the project due to density and the fact that it would cover the mural. While we understand both of those concerns, we still wouldn’t be sad to see this cool looking thing built.
On the one hand, it would dwarf the homes next door. On the other hand, it would sit at the intersection of two wide streets and sits across from acres of open space.
We weren’t able to make it through the end of the ZBA hearing yesterday, so we don’t know whether it was approved, denied, or continued with the expectation of slightly changing the plan. And sadly, the ZBA ain’t picking up the phone to answer our questions these days. For what it’s worth, we’d advocate for slicing a story off the building and constructing a slightly shorter version of what’s in the rendering. Until we get a spot on the ZBA though, it won’t be up to us.