Earlier this summer, news of development on a vacant property at 17 S 44th St. made a small commotion in West Philly when it was learned that the new building would cover over a neighborhood-driven mural which paid tribute to the local Ethiopian community. However, the fact that this building would hide a much-beloved piece of art wasn't the only noteworthy aspect of this project.
According to zoning documents online and the wall that is being built on the 4th floor of the new structure, the building will eventually have a whopping 5 floors! That may not seem like a lot but the building certainly dwarfs its current rowhouse neighbors. You may be wondering how this got through the ZBA. Well, it didn't have to. The parcels in this section of town are zoned CMX-4 which allows for quite a bit of height and density, by right.
This lot is on an intersection that is flanked by vacant lots, one of which is being used as a storage space for construction equipment for the current project. After checking the City's Office of Property Assessment, we learned that that property is owned by the Redevelopment Authority. In fact, several of the vacant lots nearby seem to be owned by the Redevelopment Authority.
This project is right across the street from a proposed Orens Brothers building that, if it happens, would demolish multiple buildings on the block. We wonder, when this planning district was zoned, what did the Planning Commission have in mind for these blocks that were so close to Market Street? Did they expect small-scale developers to develop single parcels into residential buildings, like this one? Or did they expect larger scale developers to buy all of the properties on a block, and then build something more substantial once they assembled them? Either way, we suspect that this section of the city will see a lot more construction, and probably some more demolition in the years to come.