Philadelphia YIMBY’s recent site visit has revealed that excavation is currently underway at an eight-story, 63-unit apartment building at 31 East Columbia Avenue in Fishtown, Kensington. Designed by SITIO Architecture + Urbanism, the building is an expansion for the existing Box Factory Lofts, a four-story prewar industrial building located at 21 East Columbia Avenue, which houses 20 rental units. The new building will add 67,342 square of feet of space to the development and will introduce a new shared lobby to be shared by the two structures, as well as a common residential courtyard. The new building will feature ground-level retail, elevator service, full sprinkling, covered parking for ten cars (including three car share and one accessible space) and 30 bicycles, and a roof deck. Permits list Equinox Management and Construction as the contractor and a construction cost of $13 million.
The development spans a lot bordered by East Columbia Street to the south, Blair Street to the east, and North Front Street to the west, where it faces the elevated Market-Frankford Line. Prior to construction, the existing loft building, which rises around 60 feet tall and stands on Blair Street on the site’s eastern side, was accessible from its interior western side via a walk across a large parking lot. A low-rise prewar commercial building, decorated with a razzle dazzle mural, stood to the south.
The parking lot was a blight on the Front Street corridor, forming a significant gap in its street wall. In turn, the commercial building, which did not reach Front Street, offered minimal preservation value despite its age. As such, the replacement of the two with the new structure will be a boon for the ever-densifying Front Street. The retail space at the corner will further reinforce the pedestrian experience at both Front Street and Columbia Avenue.
The new residential entry will be situated between the old and the new structures facing Columbia Avenue, where a landscaped plaza will create a pleasant approach for the new common lobby. A dramatic cantilever at the new building, which suspends the structure’s southeast corner two stories above the plaza on a V-shaped support, will create an iconic street-level feature while opening up valuable ground space. The shared courtyard will be situated between the two buildings to the north of the lobby.
The new building will rise 85 feet to the top of the main roof and 89 feet to the top of the parapet; including the bulkhead, the total height will likely reach around 95 feet. This height is impressive for the area, although it still rises well below the ten-plus-story towers under construction and proposed in Northern Liberties several blocks to the south (most notably The Piazza Terminal and Mercato, both developed by the Post Brothers).
The Front Street curb cut that will allow for parking access is unfortunate, but it seems that the developer had few options in terms of its placement. Otherwise, the under-construction encore to the Box Factory Lofts will be a great addition to the neighborhood and we look forward to further progress on its construction.
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