Thursday, July 28, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- July 28th

Forever Forgotten Lot

Bounded by Franklin Town Boulevard, Callowhill Street, 19th Steet, Some Buildings, and the Baldwin Locomotive Trench.

Fuck that's a lot of empty.
                         This is a lot that nobody thinks about.. a forlorn patch of grass that serves no purpose. Most people think it's some kind of lawn for the Community College. Nope. It's just an undeveloped parcel of shit. It's not like this particular spot held anything super-special... just some rowhomes and a crappy factory.

Corner of 18th and Callowhill 1894.
                  It just sucks that nothing seems to be going on with this Grass Doldrum of Dickcheese. It's owned by University City Housing, who bought it in 1997 for $700,000. I guess they wanted to build housing on it... it's zoned RC4, which means you could pretty much build whatever the fuck you want there except a dildo factory.
                 So what the fuck has been going on with this thing for the last 14 years? I understand that there may be some issues with it on the northwestern quadrant because there was an industrial building in that spot... sometimes they leave behind some fucked-up shit. Otherwise, I have no clue why this parcel can't get anything going. It's location is awesome... it's surrounded by tall buildings, rowhomes, a beer distributor, a former community center, and the elusive Baldwin Locomotive trench. It's only a few blocks from a supermarket and commercial strip. Baldwin Park is right there. WHAT THE FUCK?
                 Well, it's been owned by the same group for 14 years but has been vacant for at least 35. In 1971, city officials noticed that the huge area north of the Free Library and Rodin Museum looked like shit. The surviving homes were in ass condition and empty lots were everywhere... such a great location was producing very little tax revenue. A plan was created that would not only revitalize the area, but make it a whole new downtown.

Greatness was planned. From the watermark.
                     Franklintown was going to be beautiful. A residential and commercial powerhouse with super-ultra-modern buildings, a town square called Baldwin Park, and a new diagonal main street called Franklintown Boulevard, which was going to be a wooded high-end commercial district.

What they thought it would look like by now. Watermark.
               Don't think that there weren't NIMBYs. There were tons of them. Never in a million years did they think that tall buildings would be built in a city.

The NIMBY army on the march. Watermark.
                 Despite the NIMBY effect, the city eminent-domained a shitload of property and knocked it all the fuck down by the mid 70s. A great sea of empty lots filled the area and most of them got built on, but MANY survive to this day. The Forever Forgotten Lot is one of them. This particular spot is worse than the others because it's not even in use as a surface parking lot. It's in use as NOTHING. They even removed the Belgian-Blocked Shamokin Street that once ran through the lot. A small portion of it survives behind the Beer Distributor and former Community Center (now Childrens' Crisis Center).
                   Anyone who knows the Franklintown district is well aware that the lofty vision of a new downtown never materialized. Franklintown Boulevard is a concrete desert of inactivity. Future developments for the area look promising, but the neighborhood will never live up to the grand scale that was once presented in 1971. Meh, we're probably better off. Architecture in that time period was HORRENDOUS and we would've ended up with tons of lifeless 70s-ish concrete boxes everywhere that would be all browned up by now.

How it ended up. Compare to the 1971 model above.


  1. IIRC from worrking near and doing envir work in that n'hood a while back, the bldg that was once there was a small transformer factory. And so the primary issue on the lot is PCBs. This lot used to bug the sh*t out of me.

  2. You can build whatever you want, but you can't build however much parking you want, I believe (at least, I don't think?). Could be those requirements are making it not worth developing.