Last August, YIMBY shared renderings for a five-story, 204-unit development proposed at 1700 North Front Street in Fishtown, Kensington. More than half a year later, no construction permits have yet been filed nor has any construction activity taken place, as confirmed by our recent site visit. Designed by NORR, the 172,844-square-foot building will offer 123,218 square feet of residential space, which will be split between 28 studios, 141 one-bedroom units, 35 two-bedroom apartments, and a 5,264-square-foot amenity suite. The project will also feature 16,429 square feet of retail and parking for 70 bicycles.
As first stated in our previous article, we have mixed, though generally positive, feelings about the proposal. The majority of the facade will be clad in dignified brown brick, where a ground-level band and an articulated cornice make for a classical composition. Paired with large windows, the structure exudes the appearance of a prewar factory loft, which is definitely an appropriate look for the formerly industrial neighborhood.
This plain yet nuanced architectural treatment makes the seemingly random insertion of plain, pastel-colored facades throughout the structure all the more baffling. Perhaps the designers’ intent was to provide a decidedly modern element and a splash of color, yet the resulting effect only cheapens the composition and takes away from an otherwise refined appearance.
The building will dramatically improve the pedestrian experience in the area, replacing a vacant lot with a continuous street wall. Several retail spaces will contribute to the local commercial corridor, particularly along Front Street, and their floor-to-ceiling windows and wall-mounted sconces will further enhance the ambiance at the sidewalk.
On the other hand, the sprawling mid-rise structure will entirely obliterate a de facto public space that was effectively used for outdoor dining, socializing, and group exercise over the past few years. We could have had the best of both worlds if the development was instead organized as a taller building (with, perhaps, a ten-story section along Front Street) adjacent to a new public space, in an arrangement similar to that of the project at 300 North Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
On one hand, city regulations and tight height restrictions are to blame, as they effectively box the builder into the shape that we see today. On the other hand, the developer could have also taken the initiative to create open public space and a more extensive green roof, which would have allowed them to mass the building in the above-mentioned configuration. Again, this strategy was used to great effect at 300 North Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
The project would be a home run if it employed a consistent brick facade, a smaller footprint with new public space, and a greater height to compensate for lost girth. If implemented, the project would resemble a smaller version of the Piazza Terminal, which is under construction in nearby Northern Liberties, in appearance as well as function. However, even in its present form, the proposal at 1700 North Front Street will be a promising addition to a rapidly growing and increasingly vibrant neighborhood.