Restaurant Replacing Auto Dealership that Never Opened on Front Street?

1739-49 N. Front St
1739-49 N. Front St. with Selden Motors signs and notice of alcohol application in the window

We’ve mentioned that Front St. on the border of Fishtown and Kensington has been on fire recently. Many new residential units and commercial spaces have been sprouting up on the corridor over the last few years. The 1600 and 1700 blocks of N. Front St. have not seen a ton of new residential projects, but some cool businesses have opened on this stretch. We have seen Honeygrow open their corporate headquarters and their retail-facing Test Kitchen on the 1600 block. The founders of popular watering holes Johnny Brenda’s and Standard Tap opened a third bar called The International at the corner of Front St. and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Two Villanova University graduates also opened a brewery, tap room, and beer garden called Evil Genius on the 1700 block in an old carriage factory that was built in the 1870’s.

1739-49 N. Front St in 2015
1739-49 N. Front St. in 2015 with a ‘for sale’ sign on the building

Two buildings north of Evil Genius, a large corner building has been catching our attention for several years. A tile and granite shop operated at 1739-49 N. Front St for many years until around 2015, at which time we saw ‘for sale’ signs go up on the property. It looks like the property sold in January of 2016 for $630,000 – a fantastic price for a CMX-3 zoned lot in a prime location from today’s perspective. In March of 2016, we saw use permits and alteration permits pulled to turn the building into an auto dealership. When we heard of this news, we were disappointed to say the least. There is no need for an auto dealership two blocks from the Berks El Station in a neighborhood filled with more and more people that are opting to not own cars.

The owners of the building proceeded to work on the building. Most notably, new windows were installed and the whole facade was painted green. We saw a “Selden Motors” sign and mural painted on the side of the building in late 2017. At this point, we came to terms with the fact that this corner building in a location with great transit accessibility was going to have an auto-oriented use for years to come. Selden Motors is an established used car dealership in Conshohocken, and it looked like they were going to be expanding their business to Philadelphia.

In May of 2018, we were shocked to see an orange notice of application to serve alcoholic beverages in the window of this green building. Did the owners decide to pursue some kind of bar / car dealership combination concept? That did not make sense to us but is a possibility.

1739-49 N. Front St back garage
1739-49 N. Front St. from Palmer St.

In October of 2018, the owners of the property pursued a zoning variance to combine the empty lot at 1749 N. Front into the same parcel as the rest of the property. Then, the news that we had been waiting for came in December of 2018, when permits were pulled “for the erection of a roof addition at [the] first floor, for use as an eat-in restaurant with outdoor seating.” An alteration permit was subsequently pulled in March of 2019 for interior demolition, structural work, and for minor framing.

We’ve seen work happening on the site over the last few weeks. However, “Selden Motors” still adorns the facade and we have not heard any announcement about what restaurant will be opening in the space. Has anyone out there heard anything about what will be opening here? What kind of restaurant is the neighborhood lacking? Would you prefer a dining establishment to a car dealership, or both at this location?

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