We are seeing the hearts ripped out of Chinatowns across the country. What were formerly Asian cultural centers are turning into high-end neighborhoods with new construction condos. Thankfully, Philadelphia’s Chinatown has retained a lot of its character. Asian lettering, symbolism, and art cover building facades throughout the community. Ethnic businesses dominate the commercial district. With Philadelphia’s Chinatown being so close to Center City and public transportation, we fear that developers’ infringement on the uniqueness of this neighborhood will accelerate in the coming years and decades.
K-top karaoke bar and restaurant has operated on the first two floors of 911-913 Race St. since 2014. The three-story structure is adorned with Asian lettering and a burgundy tile facade graces the first floor. The terra-cotta roof adds character to the street. A historical marker stands directly in front of the building, welcoming visitors to the neighborhood founded in 1870 by Chinese immigrants.
This building does not stand out architecturally. It pales in comparison to the works of esteemed architects like Frank Furness and to other buildings that are getting demolished in Philadelphia. However, that is part of its charm. It fits in Chinatown and blends into the block.
We have received news that the owner of 911-913 Race St. has big aspirations for the CMX-4 zoned parcel. The development team is presenting plans to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) tomorrow for a 32 residential unit building with a restaurant on the first two floors. The current building would be demolished. We saw a proposal for this property continued in January, so it will be interesting to see if a ruling is given at this meeting.
Although we like to see residential density built so close to public transit, we hope the developer is respectful to the neighborhood. We do not want to see a modern, out-of-place building rise here. However, we would welcome a new, bigger building that blends into the rest of the street as the current building does. We don’t need anything over the top or flashy. Just something that fits in the the neighborhood. Keep Chinatown interesting!
On that note, we’re off to Lee How Fook for some salt baked squid and a fish hotpot.
UPDATE: The zoning variance was denied on May 1st
Kyle is a Philadelphia real estate agent on the Agent PHL team at Compass, a homeowner, and a real estate investor in Philadelphia. Kyle uses his extensive Philadelphia real estate market knowledge to help his clients find homes, investment properties, and development opportunities.
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