Permits have been issued for the construction of a four-story, 26-unit building extension at 5840-50 North 13th Street in Fern Rock, North Philadelphia. The structure is a part of Fern Rock Courts, a complex that includes two renovated prewar apartment buildings, which had sat abandoned for over a decade. The new structure will be attached to the existing building at 5840 North 13th Street and will use the former’s existing entrance. Permits appear to indicate that the total number of units at both the renovated and newly constructed section will be 63, while the renovated building to the south at 5424-38 North 13th Street (not included in the latest permits) will hold 49 residences. Plato Marinakos is listed as the design professional and Philly Dwell LLC is specified as the contractor.
The new structure will be located at the southwest corner of West Nedro Avenue and North 13th Street, replacing a site that had sat vacant for at least a decade. The structure’s footprint will span 4,508 square feet. The interiors will feature 15,606 square feet, which leads to a modest average of 603 square feet per unit, which would be even smaller when subtracting for common space.
Like the already renovated portion at 5840 North 13th Street, the expansion will almost certainly feature rental units. Real estate listings posted for the completed building indeed show compact rental apartments. Their size, as well as upscale finishes, such as stone counters and hardwood floors, and “trendy” elements such as exposed brick walls, hint that the units will most likely be targeted toward university students and young professionals.
This apparent demographic would be in keeping with a persistent student population in the area, which benefits from the proximity to LaSalle University and the Einstein Medical Center, as well as a short commute to Temple University, Center City, and University City via the nearby Fern Rock Transportation Center, the northern terminus of the Broad Street Line.
The surrounding area predominantly consists of low-rise rowhouses, yet it also features a number of mid-rise prewar apartment buildings, of a type more characteristic to New York City rather than to North Philadelphia. The two existing buildings within the complex were among these, built in an eclectic style that likely dates them somewhere between the turn of the twentieth century and the Great Depression.
Both buildings face North 13th Street with facades of dark red brick. The building at 5424-38 North 13th Street features arched entryways and large windows with soldier course brick lintels, as well as decorative metal railings on select windows. A flat gabled parapet adds gravitas to the building’s presence (unfortunately, the ornate brickwork at the parapet appears to have been plastered over).
Its neighbor to the north sports a slightly more ornate façade, with stone quoins and brick arches as window trim, decorative Juliet balconies, blind balustrades and an ornate escutcheon at the lower level, a corbelled blind arcade at the cornice, and a hipped-roofed turret. The grand arched entrance, capped by another escutcheon, sits at the end of a long pedestrian promenade that doubles as a courtyard.
A narrow alleyway with an arched entrance separates the building pair, adding an extra touch of finesse to the thoroughly urbane composition.
Unfortunately, both buildings sat abandoned for an extended period of time that spanned at least a decade. The once-stately building pair sat as a looming, menacing eyesore towering over rowhouse-lined streets.
Renovation work appears to have began slowly, some time between 2008 and 2012, and kicked into high gear around 2019.
The project is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, where we hope to see more high-density development in the near future.