Our favorite types of projects to see in Philadelphia involve the adaptive reuse of beautiful old buildings. Too often in this city, we see these structures demolished to make way for new development. However, we’re hoping a program created a few years ago that is available to developers working on historic buildings continues to provide incentive to restore old structures rather than demolish them.
The program allows developers to build to CMX-3 density standards and foregoes other requirements such as minimum parking ratios when renovating a locally designated historic structure. For example, if a property with a registered historic warehouse on it is zoned for single family homes, it can be converted into multifamily by-right without a variance.
It looks like that is exactly what is happening at 1705 North 7th Street. The parcel holds a beautiful structure that was originally built as the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue in 1888. The property was designated to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1986 and was most recently home to the Greater Straightway Baptist Church.
If you go by the site today, you’ll see that construction is underway on the property. The building is fenced off, scaffolding has been erected, and some of the windows have already been replaced. Construction permits call for 22 residential units within the existing envelope of the historic synagogue.
We noticed that the building, as recently as 2014, had a dome on the top of the northern spire. A zoning permit issued for the property notes that the developer plans to add an onion dome atop the structure. We imagine that the onion dome will sit atop the northern spire, but cannot find specific plans for this addition. The oldest photographs we can track down of the synagogue only show one onion dome, but we wonder if there was one on each spire.
Although the property at 1705-13 North 7th Street is zoned RSA-5 for single family use, this multifamily project was able to proceed by-right because the synagogue is on the local register of historic places. We’re very happy that the development team decided to utilize this bonus, preserve a piece of Philadelphia’s history, and build many more homes on this property than what would have been allowed if the structure were demolished.
How do you feel about this project? Are you happy to see this building saved? Can you think of any other old buildings that would be good candidates for adaptive reuse?
Kyle is a commercial real estate agent at Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, a homeowner, and a real estate investor in Philadelphia. Kyle uses his extensive Philadelphia real estate market knowledge to help his clients buy and sell multifamily investment properties, development opportunities, and industrial sites.
Email Kyle@RittenhouseRealty.com if you are looking to buy or sell a property