Development Opportunity at Corner of Berks and Frankford in Fishtown

1831-33 Frankford Ave. corner parcel for sale with MOMO mural

It looks like another parcel on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown will change hands in the near future. 1831-33 Frankford Ave. just hit the market last Friday for $1.2 million. This 2,934 square foot, CMX-2 zoned corner lot sits at Frankford Ave. and Berks St. within a federal Opportunity Zone. There is a one-story garage on the site that is currently used by an auto mechanic business. We often see some pretty cool trucks and buses getting worked on when we walk by this intersection and always admire the awesome mural painted by MOMO on the Berks St. side of the building.

The sales listing notes that additional contiguous parcels are also available for sale. Combined, the corner lot and additional properties offer 150 feet of Frankford Ave. street frontage and 14,000 square feet of land. We surmise that the total package would include 1831-1847 Frankford Ave. as all but one of these parcels are listed under the same ownership name and they total roughly 14,000 square feet of land. The sales price for all additional parcels is not listed.

This is a huge opportunity in a growing neighborhood that has been getting national spotlight. Development is happening in every direction and prices continue to rise in the area. A new high-end seafood restaurant sits across the street. Almost the whole western side of the 1800 block of Frankford has been redeveloped over the last 4 years with mixed-use and multi-family buildings. We recently told you about the car wash on the northern end of the block that looks like it will be redeveloped soon. Down the street from the car wash, a 95 unit mixed-use building is under construction.

The intersection of Berks and Frankford also gets a ton of foot traffic for two main reasons. First, it sits on the Frankford Ave. commercial corridor. Secondly, tons of residents walk by here every day on the way to the train. There is a pedestrian path through the high school fields at Berks and Blair St. that goes right to the El. Each day, you will see swarms of people walk through this intersection in the morning and evening to get to the pathway.

It is important to note that only the corner parcel is zoned CMX-2. The lots at 1835 through 1847 Frankford Ave. are all zoned RM-1. RM-1 allows multi-family development by-right, but does not allow commercial mixed-use. A zoning variance would be needed to construct a mixed-use development on these RM-1 zoned parcels.

1831-47 Frankford Ave. outlined on zoning map. Red indicates CMX-2 while orange indicates RM-1

With this zoning information in mind, there are many options for this site. If you decide to buy just the corner garage, you could either decide to re-use the structure or demolish it. The garage could be converted into an amazing restaurant or beer garden. You could also put a residential addition above the existing structure at Berks and Frankford. We recently told you about CookNSolo’s plan to open a Zahav-like restaurant just off of Frankford Avenue. The corner warehouse the Zahav team is utilizing changed hands in Septemeber of 2018 for $1.075 million.

Interior view of 1831-33 Frankford Ave.

If you were to pursue demolition, you could build a sizable mixed-use project on the corner lot. By our calculations, a 5 residential unit, 38 foot building with ground floor retail would be allowed by-right at 1831-33 Frankford Ave. Bonuses and zoning variances could allow for a taller and denser building.

If you were to buy more of the available parcels, you would have more options. You could obviously tear all of the buildings down, combine the lots, and get the whole parcel rezoned to CMX-2.

At least 3 of the RM-1 zoned buildings are grand and seem to be in good shape. We would not pursue the demolition route for economic reasons and because of our love for old buildings. 1839 Frankford is the nicest of these buildings and from the street, we can tell it is large. The structure remains at 3 stories all the way to its back wall. The other two buildings appear to dip down to 2 stories in their backs. We have seen developers overbuild the back ends of their buildings when redeveloping them. We think this would be a good option for these other two buildings.

Aerial view of 1831-1847 Frankford Ave.

Our ideal scenario is outlined below for someone that buys all of these parcels:

  • Combine 1831-37 Frankford Ave. into one parcel and get the whole lot rezoned to CMX-2. Demolish all structures and construct a dense mixed-use structure. We calculate a 10 residential unit building with retail could be built on this lot by-right.
  • Restore 1839, 1845, and 1847 Frankford Ave into multi-family buildings. Each structure should allow 3-4 units by right. 1845 and 1847 both extend all the way back to Sepviva St., so they should allow more than 3-4 units.
  • Combine 1841 and 1843 Frankford Ave. to construct a multi-family building. You could even pursue a zoning variance and get this rezoned to CMX-2 which would allow a mixed-use development.
Buildings at 1839-47 Frankford Ave.

We could outline a dozen more scenarios, but we don’t want to exhaust you more than we have already. The options are there. Someone smarter (and better capitalized) than us just has to figure out how to make the numbers work. As we said, this is a big opportunity. Prices are only rising in the Riverwards and developable parcels are becoming more scarce. What kind of project would you pursue at this site? What would you like to see built here? What type of business do you think this part of the neighborhood needs?

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