Permits have been issued for the construction of a five-story, 23-unit mixed-use building at 3424 North 17th Street in Nicetown-Tioga, North Philadelphia. The development will rise on the west side of the block between Ontario and West Tioga streets. The structure will span a 7,798-square-foot footprint and will hold 23,964 square feet of floor space, which will include ground-floor commercial space. Residences will be located on floors two through five. The project will offer parking for six cars and seven bicycles. Permits list Scott Woodruff of Designblendz as the design professional and Backcourt Builders LLC as the contractor. Construction costs are specified at $3 million.
Nicetown-Tioga is a North Central Philadelphia neighborhood situated west of Broad Street and bound roughly by Allegheny Avenue to the south and West Hunting Park Avenue (the western extension of Roosevelt Boulevard) to the north. The district was impacted considerably by depopulation and subsequent wave of demolitions in the postwar period, leaving a patchwork where nearly intact city blocks built out with rowhouses sit next to blocks that lost up to, and sometimes over, half of their prewar building stock, with ample vacant lots and abandoned buildings.
The property at hand is situated at one of such desolate blocks. Although the east side of the street has retained its prewar rowhouses in near-entirety, the western side of the block, the site of the proposal at 3424 North 17th Street, comprises a near-continuous strip of vacant lots and derelict abandoned rowhouses.
Despite its dreary present condition, the block, as well as the neighborhood as a whole, may be at the precipice of major positive change. First, the foundations for incoming development are all there, with ample construction-ready land, a solid volume of occupied housing stock (which ensures that the neighborhood does not feel desolate), proximity to Temple University Hospital (situated around five blocks to the east of the proposal site at 3424 North 17th Street), and mass transit adjacency (the Allegheny and Erie stations on the Broad Street Line may both be reached within a ten-minute walk of the proposal site).
Although Nicetown-Tioga is yet to see any notable volume of new development, there are signs that revival is already at hand. Over the past few years, the eight-story Art Deco building, which sat abandoned for years at 1700 West Tioga Street at the north end of the 3400 block, was renovated into Tioga Luxury Apartments by Lofts 1700 West Tioga LLC.
Last year saw a record spike in gun violence throughout Philadelphia, and North Central Philadelphia was arguably the city’s hardest-hit area. However, although the socioeconomic demographics of Nicetown-Tioga are similar to the rest of the surrounding neighborhoods, the neighborhood core, bound by Allegheny Avenue to the south Broad Street to the east, Erie Avenue to the north, and North 19th Street to the west, registered almost no shootings at all during the period, in fortunate contrast to the rest of North Philadelphia West.
Violent crime is one of the most unfortunate aspects of urban living, and its sources, as well as solutions, involve a complex analysis well beyond YIMBY’s purview. However, urban blight and neighborhood decay are undeniable factors that lower the quality of life for local residents and contribute to ensuing social problems, and neighborhood investment, whether wholesale or one building at a time, benefits the community as a whole, whether by providing temporary (e.g. construction) and permanent jobs or by replacing nuisance lots with new residences and commercial venues.
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New development can be both a blessing and a curse for the community residents.What seems to happen is rents and tax assessments increase and people cannot afford to stay in their residences. However by the same token, the neighborhood is full of blight. Could the solution be different kinds of housing built in the same area?
Redevelopment to blighted areas is both a blessing and a curse to those already living in poor communities. Rents increase. Taxes go up. Current residents cannot afford to stay and get pushed out. It happens all the time. The developers buy up everything and receive 10 year tax abatements. What about building new housing for mixed income levels of people?
Mr. Lawrence Freeman, the houses have been very cheap in Nicetown-Tioga for a few decades now, no reason why anybody couldn’t have become a homeowner. The monthly mortgage for a modest rowhouse has been a good deal cheaper than rent in many cases. Also, the city of Philadelphia Revenue Department has a program called ‘Senior Citizen Tax Freeze’ (www.phila.gov/senior-freeze) whereby they stop increasing the amount that is owed for real estate taxes. Under this program the amount of property tax you pay each year will not increase, even if the property assessment or the tax rate change. Not a bad deal.