Completion rapidly approaches at 1801 Fairmount, a five-story, ten-unit mixed-use development at 1801 Fairmount Avenue in Fairmount, North Philadelphia. Also known as 1801-03 Fairmount Avenue, the structure stands at the northwest corner of Fairmount Avenue and North 18th Street, near the southern edge of Francisville, and features ground-level retail and ten luxury condominiums. Philadelphia YIMBY recently visited the site of the nearly finished structure.
The new development replaces a three-story building with commercial space at the ground floor. The former structure offered certain architecturally interesting elements, particularly an angled corner entrance to the commercial space and distinctive Streamlined Moderne elements such as a curved corner, round chrome-plated pilasters, and a chrome-plated metal band at the ground level. On the whole, however, the building was an eyesore. Its orange red brick was of middling quality and offered virtually no ornament aside from what was mentioned above. An unusual second-story setback exposed a largely blank wall, covered in blotchy paint, toward the prominent street corner.
Although the new building appears rather conventional as far as new projects go, it is reasonably well-designed and is a definite upgrade for the site. Like its predecessor, its brick exterior is rather plain and offers minimal detail. However, its light gray palette adds a cheerful touch to the intersection and color variations of its tapestry brick offer greater nuance than that of the prior building. Cantilevered projections add visual interest both by articulating an otherwise boxy form and contributing contrast via black metallic cladding.
Curiously, the new building maintains some of the most interesting design elements of its predecessor, namely the diagonal corner entrance, which is a staple of the Philadelphia rowhouse vernacular, as well as the curved corner and a metal band above the ground floor. However, the band is painted black instead of replicating the prior structure’s chrome, and matches the cantilever paneling, awnings, and the slim cornice. Furthermore, the brick at the curved corner is stacked in a soldier course pattern, adding a subtle yet highly attractive highlight to the structure.
In all, the finished structure is much more appealing than the one shown in the renderings, as it follows the same basic form yet offers much finer attention to architectural detail. The only letdown is the absence of lush vegetation overhanging the retail space at the ground level, which, as we suspected in our Francisville feature, was just a graphic embellishment sprucing up the renderings.
Also unfortunate is the absence of a green roof, which, even if not accessible to residents, would have lessened the building’s impact on the urban heat island effect, decreased water runoff, and saved energy expenditures via improved interior insulation.
Currently available listings include a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, on the market for $500,000, as well as a pair of 1,330-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom units, one priced at $690,000 and another at $775,000.
The fifth floor penthouse, which has already been sold, offers 2,320 square feet of space with three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, and a 500-square-foot, south-facing terrace that overlooks the Center City skyline.
The centrally-sited development is located within an eight-minute walk to the Fairmount Station on the Broad Street Line to the east and a 15-minute walk to Center City to the south (some may list the condo site as located within Center City itself but we subscribe to the traditional definition of the district’s location between South and Vine streets). The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Park sit within a 20-minute walk to the west, and the Temple University campus is situated within a 25-minute walk to the northeast.
The relatively steep price tag is a sure marker of a rising cachet for the area and a definitive sign of revival for Francisville, a rapidly-growing district where large portions of entire city blocks sat vacant as recently as a decade ago. And while the neighborhood retains ample preservation-worthy prewar building stock, there is still plenty of room available for further growth.