We were looking at some aerial images of West Philly last week, which is of course a very common activity that normal people do all the time. Right? Hey, stop looking at us like that.
As we were saying, we were looking at some aerial images and something caught our eye near 43rd & Fairmount. This area simply doesn’t see much new construction and we saw what looked like a number of foundations at the corner of Brooklyn & Fairmount, at 43rd & Fairmount, and also in the middle of a block of Brooklyn Street between Aspen and Fairmount. Quick aside- before this minute, did you know that Brooklyn Street existed in Philadelphia? It comes and goes pretty quickly, running north-south between Haverford and Parrish Streets, but it’s definitely there. The more you know.
Anyway, it seemed odd to us that there would be so many foundations in this area, and we thought that perhaps these were instead community gardens, so we figured we’d go investigate. When we got to the properties, we saw that the “foundations” off of Fairmount weren’t actually foundations or community gardens, but were just overgrown vacant land. Any site work that might have happened there seemingly washed away long ago. The property on Brooklyn Street does indeed contain cinderblock foundations, as it has for about a decade. Again though, no buildings have been built here, nor do we expect to see anything here any time soon.
A few months ago, the Inquirer published a story about City owned properties selling for $1 and later getting flipped for tens of millions of dollars in profits. That article referenced the properties pictured above, all of which were sold for a buck a piece about fifteen years ago to a politically connected developer called Brooklyn Heights LP, with a plan for affordable housing. That project never advanced much past the starting line, as you can see.
The City is currently involved in litigation with the developers, trying to get the properties back. Given the speed at which these sorts of lawsuits move, we think it’s probably safe to assume that these lots will continue to sit, vacant and overgrown, for years to come. Oh, and did we forget to mention, the owners are also tax delinquent on many of these properties, for over $150K combined? Good stuff all around.