The area around the intersection of 13th Street, Ridge Avenue, & Mt. Vernon Street, in the Poplar neighborhood, was a desolate spot in a largely vacant industrial neighborhood a few years ago. For those who don’t know where the Poplar neighborhood is, it’s the neighborhood east of Broad Street between Spring Garden Street and Girard Avenue. It’s surrounded by Yorktown to the north, Northern Liberties to the east, Francisville to the west, and Callowhill to the south. The upper part of Poplar has been redeveloped into the highly successful Richard Allen Homes and Cambridge Plaza communities, former housing projects rebuilt by the Philadelphia Housing Authority into quiet and safe residential neighborhoods for working class families. The lower part of Poplar still has many nineteenth century townhouses, many converted to apartment buildings, but until recently these townhouses and apartment buildings were surrounded by numerous empty lots and abandoned buildings, that have mostly been filled in with new townhouses and small apartment and condo buildings. The area along 13th Street, though, was largely an industrial area, similar to the Callowhill neighborhood to the south. Callowhill, which is between Spring Garden and Vine Streets, was barely even a neighborhood a decade ago. It was a largely vacant industrial zone, and that industry, and vacancy, continued up 13th Street for a large stretch. Some notable vacancies there are the Divine Lorraine Hotel, on Broad Street; the empty lots behind the hotel on 13th Street; a small, but unique, triangular former apartment building at 13th & Mt. Vernon that is quite visible from Broad; and a former electric power station at 1221 Mt. Vernon Street, at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Camac Streets, that had most recently been used as an auto repair shop.
The circa turn-of-the-twentieth century power station was used by the Philadelphia Electric Company, now PECO of course, for decades before it was converted to an auto repair shop. It is still owned by Nationwide Auto Body, but has been vacant and dilapidated for some years. A developer by the name of Vance Real Estate Concepts is planning to buy the building and convert it to 40 apartments, with 20 parking spaces inside and approximately 13 bike spaces. The design, by prolific Poplar-based architecture firm Harman Deutsch, will rebuild most of the facade with a modern one on Mt. Vernon Street and create a courtyard in the middle of the building, with the apartments all on either side of the courtyard. The roof, over the new courtyard, will be removed except for the rafter beams. The apartments will have some balconies overlooking the courtyard, with the parking behind in the back of the building. The apartments will range in size from 660 to 1,400 square feet, with one, two, and three bedroom units. The facade will retain some of the original brick, but will also have modern panels and windows imbetween. All the brick will remain on the top portion of the facade, retaining the stepped roof line, and the old circular vent, in the middle of the upper facade, will be removed for an open portal. There will be one entry door to the building, and a gate to the courtyard, on Mt. Vernon Street. An electrical power substation used by SEPTA, on the corner at 13th Street to the west of the building, will remain in use.
This development has strong support from the local community groups and was approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment on April 3rd. This is another in a series of developments in this neighborhood. The triangular apartment building, across the street from 1221 Mt. Vernon Street, is scheduled to be renovated soon and several small residential developments are happening to the south, at 13th and Buttonwood Streets. To the north, the Divine Lorraine was bought be developer Eric Blumenfeld, who would like to renovate it into apartments and maybe, eventually, develop the empty lots behind it on 13th Street. Blumenfeld has, already, renovated adjacent buildings on Broad Street into the Lofts 640 and 600 N. Broad Street developments. Blumenfeld, also, owns and would like to renovate the large dilapidated Metropolitan Opera House, at Broad and Poplar Streets, and the former Stevens School at Broad and Spring Garden Streets, which he would like to renovate to be artists lofts and working studios and galleries. Also, at Broad and Spring Garden Streets, is the newly renovated former State Office Building, now known as Tower Place; an apartment development I wrote about three weeks ago. And, as if all that isn’t enough, the old Union Transfer Depot, at 12th and Spring Garden Streets, has been renovated into the Union Transfer concert venue and the large, old Goldtex warehouse, at 12th and Vine, has been renovated into apartments as well. All this development is remaking the Poplar and Callowhill neighborhoods and the renovation of 1221 Mt. Vernon Street is one of many long-vacant, eyesore buildings that are being renovated to create a booming neighborhood.
If you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in this ever-changing area of the city, or any other area, then feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or view my Long & Foster agent portal, here, my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor, or my twitter page, @GabrielGPhilaRE. You can, also, check out the Long & Foster Philly Center City Office, here. You can see the approval from the Zoning Board, here, and my pictures of the building and neighborhood, below.