A recent site visit by Philly YIMBY has observed that excavation work has started at the site of a five-story, 204-unit development proposed at 1700 North Front Street in Fishtown. Following a gradual arrival of construction equipment onto the site, excavators have recently begun to tear up the blacktop of the block-spanning parking lot that spans the large site bound by the elevated-train-capped Front Street to the east, Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the south, Hope Street to the west, and Palmer Street to the north. Designed by NORR, the 172,844-square-foot structure will hold 123,218 square feet of residential space and 16,429 square feet of retail. The residential component will consist of 28 studios, 141 one-bedroom units, 35 two-bedroom apartments, and a 5,264-square-foot amenity suite. The development will also feature 70 bicycle parking spaces.
Arguably, 1700 North Front Street excels most at its ground-level programming, which will feature retail along the primary thoroughfares (Front Street, Cecil B. Moore Avenue, and the corner of Palmer Street) and residences and vehicle access at the minor streets (Hope and Palmer streets), which will generate a varied mix of round-the-clock pedestrians along the block. As mentioned above, the site would had benefited significantly from a design with a taller, slimmer building that would had opened up a portion of the large lot for public activity, especially since the parking lot was previously used for the much-beloved North Front Street Festival.
Clearly, a large mixed-use building is much better suited for the transit-adjacent site (the Berks Station is situated a block to the north) than a parking lot, even one that was occasionally used for successful public events. However, there is no reason that a site of this scale could not had effectively accommodated both uses, and we must continue to petition our elected officials to upgrade the zoning code to allow for this type of mutually beneficial configuration and public-private programming.