43 New Townhouses Coming to Northern Liberties

Rendering of Liberty Square townhouse project by Atrium Design Studio via PRDC Properties

This landed in the Property inbox a few days ago: an announcement from PRDC Properties that it would soon begin work on a 43-unit townhouse development at the southern edge of Northern Liberties.

Designed by Atrium Design Studio, the project hits all the usual high notes: sleek modern design with brick, steel and glass outside, and roomy (3,100- to 3,800-square-foot) three- and four-bedroom units with such features as 10-foot-high ceilings, quartz countertops in the kitchens, Porcelanosa bathrooms, enchanting roof decks and community green space. And, of course, garage parking for one or two cars per unit: even though PRDC CEO David Perlman said in a news release that “the project was designed with walkability in mind,” this is Northern Liberties, after all, and no residential project that would put more resident cars on the street would pass muster with the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association.

The name of the project: Liberty Square.

Which is also the name of a much larger development now under construction a little bit to the north, on the South Kensington side of Girard Avenue. Read more »

Report: “Anarchists” Vandalize Cars, Apartments in South Kensington

About 30 people vandalized a number of luxury cars and newly-constructed apartment buildings in South Kensington last night, according to NBC10.

Police reportedly described the vandals as “anarchists.” About 20 cars and several buildings were damaged near the intersection of 2nd and Jefferson streets.

Windows were smashed and paint was splattered across the outside of apartments. A banner discovered at the scene of the incident read “Gentrification is death, Revolt is Life.”  Read more »

Neighbors Weigh In on American Street’s Future


This illustration shows what a typical block with a bioswale in part of its median would look like. | Image from Gilmore & Associates for the City of Philadelphia

This illustration shows what a typical block with a bioswale in part of its median would look like. | Image from Gilmore & Associates for the City of Philadelphia

As Philadelphia went through its industrial revolution that made it “The Workshop of the World,” one of its greatest industrial districts was the one that arose along American Street in Kensington thanks to a Reading Railroad branch line.

Most of that industry is now gone, and what remains is on a much smaller scale. But the street remains huge — and foreboding to some, thanks to its desolate appearance, a byproduct of that deindustrialization. This has led to an unusual partnership between three city agencies aimed at both remaking the street for a mixed-use future and turning it into a showcase for green infrastructure.

At a public open house on July 26, representatives of the Streets Department, the Water Department and the City Planning Commission invited residents of South Kensington (Old Kensington), West Kensington and Norris Square to give their opinions about what issues the city should address first when rebuilding the street. Read more »

Manufacturing Philadelphia Tech Jobs: A New “Factory” to Rise on American Street

1525 North American Street

Streamline’s “jobs factory” pays homage to American Street’s past – and, the developers hope, its future. Rendering | Harman Deutsch Architecture

[Updated Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m. to indicate that a vote has yet to take place.]

South Kensington (or Old Kensington, to some) has historically been part of the city’s industrial heart, but lately developers responding to the residential boom in neighboring Northern Liberties and Fishtown have been giving those old industrial buildings heart transplants such as the one the current home of Spencer Industries on Mascher Street is about to get.

The city, it appears, hasn’t abandoned the notion that South Kensington can still be home to industry completely, though. American Street, an extra-wide north-south thoroughfare between Second and Third streets that still has a freight railroad line running down its middle (long abandoned, alas), is still mostly zoned industrial, and there’s still a Keystone Opportunity Zone designation intended to lure job-creating businesses running the length of the street in Kensington.

Yet most of these industrial-zoned lots remain vacant, like the one Streamline Solutions, a local development firm that specializes in residential projects, purchased on the east side of American Street, extending from Jefferson Street almost all the way to Oxford Street. Surrounding the lot are mostly residential structures, including a row of houses on the block’s Oxford Street side that clearly predate its I-2 zoning.

This would seem to be a great place to build new residences. But the lot’s zoned industrial, which means a variance would be required to build any residential structure.

Which led Streamline co-CEO Sean Frankel to propose a novel solution to the problem: Build townhomes on the back half of the lot and a “factory” of a different sort on the front.

“I spoke with our architects, and they said it was zoned for industrial and manufacturing,” he said. “I asked them if there was anything else we could do on the site.”

And that’s when Frankel had his epiphany: “I said, ‘We’re going to manufacture tech jobs.'”

Read more »

Olde Kensington Gets an Outdoor Trapeze School


“Soar Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease on Kensington’s Flying Trapeze!” That’s what the poster would say if P.T. Barnum were advertising the Fly School Circus Arts’ move to 1620 North Fifth Street. From suburban Bucks County to gritty Fifth and Cecil B. Moore — that’s quite a change.

Read more »

Enormous Live/Work Space Takes “Studio” to New Levels

Sometimes studio means a small living space. Sometimes it means a place to do your creative work. Sometimes it means a living space inside the place where you do your creative work. This? This loft is not that. This loft is nearly 5,000 square feet of space where you can live luxuriously, do your creative work and – if the listing photos are to be believed – apparently have room left over to park at least two motorcycles inside.

Read more »

Manayunk to Get a New Co-Working Space, Plus the Wild West in Wash West

CBS 3 gets podcasty to talk about the new two-day First Friday in Old City [CBS3]
A Piece Of Wild West History In Historic Wash West [Hidden City]
Collingswood loves its parklet [philly.com]
Two brothers propose innovative co-working vision for old Manayunk building [Newsworks]
At Maplewood Mall block party, opinions vary about upcoming $2.2 million redesign [Newsworks]
Newest Old Kensington proposal one mega-project too many, neighbors say [Philadelphia Real Estate Blog]

Property’s Morning Obsession: Slice-of-Life Video of Kensington in 1982, Starring Philadelphia Accents

This is a really depressing video (and good morning to you!) that’s nonetheless mesmerizing. A California filmmaker follows around a bunch of teenagers in Kensington in 1982. Some kids are profoundly stupid, racist and misogynistic; others almost have some charm, and you wonder if they ever got out. The area was severely disadvantaged at the time, more so than it is now. At one point, the filmmaker drives through a part of Kensington that is so lost and abandoned, I can’t believe it’s Philly. And that’s saying something.

At one point, there’s a cop car spotted, which one teen assumes means someone is getting a ticket. Not so. “Double-parked having coffee,” says another kid. “Philadelphia Police.” Then: “Philly’s finest. Rizzo’s Raiders.” As a slice of life from that time period, it’s completely fascinating. But if you plan to watch at work, wear headphones: There’s profanity–and skin-searing Philadelphia accents.

Read more »

Mystery Real Estate: Gold Club to Open in Northern Liberties, But Where?

The Gold Club Center City, which bills itself as a “world famous gentleman’s club,” will soon add to its renown with a new location in Northern Liberties. The Center City strip joint is at the end of Chancellor Street, that little alley by Applebee’s on 15th. Programming is rather diverse, from the burlesque Peek-a-Boo Revue to “performances” by porn stars (“Sex Machine” Kendall Karson will be there April 26th and 27th, FYI).

Read more »

Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward Is Coming to South Kensington


With a distinct lack of grades and an on-site bar, Jason Goodman may be right when he calls the new 3rd Ward “everything you love about school and nothing you hate.”

After more than a year of renovations and planning, the Brooklyn-based co-working/education center is due to open its massive new space in April at 1227 N. Fourth Street in South Kensington.

3rd Ward classes—which in Brooklyn range from building a WordPress site to building a solar power generator—are open-enrollment, à la carte and affordable. He pegged the average class price at between $50 and $500, though some classes can run over $1,000 and go up to eight weeks in length. “We go straight to making to keep the costs low,” Goodman said. “Learn theory on Wikipedia and come to 3rd Ward to make it.”

The 3rd Ward “curriculum” encourages peer-to-peer teaching. “We teach them the basics of teaching and let them go,” Goodman said. “[The focus is on] people from this community teaching their skills to other people in this community.” He and Deuerlein estimate they’ve received more than 300 resumes from Philly-area subject matter experts. By launch, they will have hired about 150 of them.

The 27,000-square-foot location was once a church and later a factory. Signs of both remain. Local businessman Paul Maiello bought the space in conjunction with David Belt and his firm Macro/Sea. If that name sounds familiar, you have likely read about Belt’s dumpster pools in New York a few summers back.

The space is three stories and includes a deck and – of course – a green roof. Goodman and Jestis Deuerlein, who will be in charge of events at the space, explained that students and co-workers alike will take advantage of the outdoor area. The culinary classroom just inside will serve not only as a space to teach eager students cooking basics, but as a catering kitchen for the events that will be held on the deck.

Down the hall from the culinary kitchen are a series of classrooms Goodman describes as “for making.” The media classroom will teach students how to use software and also how to make it (think: how to use Photoshop and how to develop an app to outdo it). In the printing classroom, students will learn screen printing firsthand. Adjacent to that is the jewelry studio, where you can cast your own wearable art. There is also a textile classroom for the budding Project Runway set as well as a circuitry and hardware classroom where brave souls can learn how to put together robotic arms. Deuerlein promised both a hat-making and shoe-making class. Downstairs is a metal shop and a wood shop with hand tool areas and machine areas that will be available to amateur craftspeople and pros alike.

The second element of the 3rd Ward empire includes a co-working space. Lots of airy co-working space. Occupying the third floor in a setting that very clearly was once a church, Goodman estimates they will be able to accommodate a few hundred co-workers.

The middle of the room will see eight conference tables for daily drop-ins and the perimeter of the room is lined with private offices fit for between two and eight colleagues. Offices will go for a monthly fee and come with conference room rights. Single co-workers and teams alike will have access to the kitchenette as well as private phone booths to make calls without disturbing others.

Goodman said that, as in the Brooklyn space, he expects “design-oriented freelancers” to take up many of the desks and offices. Architects, writers and software developers are among the popular professions at 3rd Ward in New York. The idea, he said, is to foster a sort of start-up culture in the space where emerging artists and businesses have instant access to one another. Work spaces can expand and contract as needed, he said. They also expect artisanal producers to use shop and kitchen spaces to create goods while simultaneously renting space on the co-working floor to handle business and marketing.

Finally, the ground floor will also house an as-yet unnamed restaurant. In addition to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, he said they will have a liquor license. All the better to have a drink with your new friends from class.

“We want this building to be a hub for the community,” Goodman said. “You can’t really have that without food and drink.”