Right now, the area around Wayne Junction may not look like much. Large empty warehouses from Philadelphia’s bygone industrial era stand over roads barren of pedestrian traffic, save for SEPTA commuters around the Regional Rail station, which was first built by the Reading Railroad company in the 1800s.
But amongst the blight and litter, developer Ken Weinstein sees opportunity. That’s why he will invest $12 million into an adaptive reuse plan that will redevelop seven properties and create new office space, apartments and a vintage trolley-car style diner in the area as part of a plan he announced on Tuesday.
“The only way to change a place like Wayne Junction is to make many improvements all at once, and that’s what we plan to do,” Weinstein said after presenting the plan inside the former Blaisdell Paper Pencil Company on Berkeley Street. “People want to see something done, and they want to see blight removed from their community, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
If it sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that Weinstein has done this before. He is credited with revitalizing Mt. Airy by many, having developed multiple storefronts on Germantown Avenue near Allen’s Lane two decades ago.
Around Wayne Junction, where rowhomes sell for as low as $100,000 and lower, neighborhood buzz about the area’s untapped potential has been growing steadily in recent months.
Weinstein aims to redevelop some 122,581 square feet of existing real estate, with construction set to begin in 2018 to bring in tenants by 2019.
“This area is chock full of historic buildings that are crying out to be restored,” Weinstein said. “It should have been renovated earlier, but we’re going to get that done now.”
The plan also calls for new restaurants, a new local brewery, coffee shops, a co-working space, a dog park, the new headquarters of Philly Office Retail and streetscaping with new trees, lighting and murals.
“It’s a good thing for the local economy. … My only concern is bringing a package that looks like a done deal to the community and they didn’t have input, they weren’t in the mix,” said Majeedah Rashid, COO of the Nicetown Community Development Corporation. “We just want to be able to work together. … There’s a lot of businesses around here that probably don’t even know this is going on.”
Wayne Junction sits right on the border of Germantown and Nicetown. Multiple Regional Rail lines pass through the station, just two stops from Center City, and it is adjacent to Route 1. Rashid said the area could become “a real destination.”
While Wayne Junction may not have been on everyone’s radar, after his presentation on Tuesday, Weinstein was already meeting excited new neighbors and property owners interested in learning more about the project.
“To me, it’s proof that people want to get behind something positive and exciting,” he said. “And it’s been overwhelmingly positive, the feedback that we’ve received.”