Despite rising interest rates, development in Mt. Airy continues to chug along as investors seek to capitalize on land for dense new housing projects.
Despite rising interest rates, development in Mt. Airy continues to chug along as investors seek to capitalize on land for dense new housing projects. To keep readers abreast of a few of their changing neighborhood’s developments, The Local checked in on the most notable of those projects.
The following is an update on their status.
Emlen Street and W. Mt. Pleasant
A commercial building permit issued by the city for a proposed development at 360 W. Mt. Pleasant Avenue, the current site of an abandoned parking lot with a deteriorating hut at the center of it, says that the project will include 34 units, commercial space, and 29 parking spaces in an underground garage. However, that’s likely to change, the building’s developer, Scott Seibert of Bancroft Green, told the Local in a phone call.
“We are still very excited to build this development,” said Seibert, “but we are going for a zoning amendment.”
Seibert couldn’t yet give details on what the new iteration of the project will look like, but said “the project will essentially remain the same” and that he’s optimistic that it’ll move forward sometime in 2024, but, he said, only as long as the banking and lending environment improves.
The project, which sits on the same block as Mt. Airy taproom and across the street from the block of Emlen where Tiffin is located, “will help further activate that corner as a commercial meeting place,” Seibert said.
Mt. Airy National Bank building
Construction on the Mt. Airy National Bank building, located in the heart of Mt. Airy’s business district at 7208 Germantown Ave., is underway after the Philadelphia Historical Commission granted the developer, TierView Development, permission to build a 19-unit addition onto the back of the historically designated former home of the Mt. Airy National Bank. The project is slated to include a commercial space.
TierView’s president, Jenn Patrino, could not be reached for comment. However, in a previous interview, she told the Local that construction for the project is scheduled to take approximately 12 months to complete.
TierView’s plans for the development come in the wake of the recently created Central Mount Airy Commercial Historic District, designated in 2021, which extends two blocks along Germantown Avenue from Nippon Street to Mount Pleasant Avenue.
The newly created district, which was nominated for historic designation by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, is “maybe one of the first examples of the city encouraging that kind of oversight of a business district by the Historic Commission,” said Mt. Airy developer Ken Weinstein.
The project is part of a larger trend that developers are taking advantage of in the wake of the city’s 2019 upzoning of Germantown Avenue-fronting properties from Allens Lane to Sedgwick Street. The new guidelines allow for larger, taller and more dense buildings. They also give developers the right to build larger projects without first seeking permission from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Before the 2019 rezoning, Philadelphia’s zoning code was set up in such a way that most developments taller than 38 feet in Mt. Airy’s business corridor would have had to go before the zoning board, a process which triggered an automatic notice to nearby neighbors. Now, that notice isn’t required unless a proposal is taller than 55 feet, so neighbors are no longer notified for projects of this height.
Former Mt. Pleasant Garage building
The future of this now-empty lot at 7078 Lincoln Drive, which sits across from the CVS and formerly housed a stone garage, remains something of a mystery.
According to records of a May Zoom meeting Mt. Airy Neighbors hosted with the project’s developer, the development team agreed to share renderings of their proposal, which included erecting a five-story building with 30 residential units. Those renderings have not yet been shared.
No parking is currently planned for the project. The developer, David Mednick, who also couldn’t be reached for comment, said in the May meeting that the project would take about 18 months to complete. However, construction has yet to begin and the community group hasn’t heard back from the developer.
“The site was cleared many months ago, and it’s now just an overgrown mess,” said WMAN president Steve Kendall. “Nothing’s happened on that site that any of us are aware of. It just seems to have stalled.”
The Local first reported on potential developments at the site in March of this year, when developers were issued a stop work order by the city for an illegal demolition, halting development plans.
The developer later argued that because the structure that was removed from the site didn’t contain a roof, it wasn’t technically a demolition. The city then ruled that plans for construction on the site could resume. As of last week however, nothing further had happened at the site.
20-30 Allens Lane
A four-story, 76-unit property at 20-30 Allens Lane, located behind the Mt. Airy Wawa at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Allens Lane, has broken ground and is slated to open in 2025, according to the developer’s website. The developer, Khosla Properties, also plans for 26 onsite parking spaces to be included in the project. The project completed the city’s Civic Design Review process in October of last year and is moving ahead with the project.
Former Trolley Car Diner
Blake Development and Main Street Development, who both partnered for the project located at 7611-25 Germantown Ave, are currently laying the foundation for a five-story, 114-unit apartment complex complete with 38 parking spaces, 7,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and a roof deck, which was approved – and largely praised – by the city’s Civic Design Board in 2021.
“This is actually a very richly and well-designed project,” said CDR board member Leo Addimando in late 2021. “It's rare that in front of this Civic Design Review board, we see projects that have as much architectural detail and thought as this one does.”
Blake’s owner, Sam Blake, couldn’t be reached for comment for this story. Construction appears to be ongoing.
The complex will be filled with a mixture of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio apartments. The Germantown Avenue-facing facade will be composed predominantly of “Glacier Gray Western” brick, a color that mimics other buildings along the corridor. The back of the building will feature dark gray metal paneling.
The 38 underground parking spaces, along with a loading zone, will be accessible via Woodbrook Lane, which currently stands as a dead-end street off Germantown Avenue.
Fred’s Mt. Airy Motors
Developer Stuart Udis told the Local that he soon expects to start work on a project at the former home of Fred’s Mt. Airy Motors, located at 208 E. Mt. Airy Ave. The project is slated to include 12 townhomes and a separate three story building that’ll house 18 condominiums, which will be sold individually, and 18 parking spaces. Construction, Udis said, should begin at some point in the next 60 days.
“My hope is for this project to lead other developers to consider building housing geared towards home ownership,” he said, since “much of the inventory that’s being built or being permitted in the neighborhood is rental inventory.”
After several meetings with neighbors, which were facilitated by East Mt. Airy Neighbors, nearby residents voted in favor of supporting the development. The development team’s variance was granted by the ZBA over the summer.
“It’s a big project,” said Kelly O’Day, who sits on EMAN’s zoning committee, “with a pretty hefty price tag.”