Approval Sought to Turn Historic Philadelphia Firehouse Into Apartments

In July 2020, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority first approved the sale of the Firehouse 29 building for redevelopment into 29 apartment units. The building, which resides at 1221 N. Fourth St., sold for $1.6 million in 2020 to developer Jeffrey Tubbs. 

He is associated with the Make the World Better Foundation, a nonprofit organization that NFL player Connor Barwin also co-founds. The developers gained ZBA approval in January 2021; however, it is still under review by the Philadelphia Historical Commission because of the historical nature of the property. 

What Are the Details of the Project?

The Make the World Better Foundation is working with the design firm Continuum Architecture & Design, PC, and Philadelphia to restore the existing building and build a five-story building on a lot in the rear of the property. The property is zoned multi-family, so the proposed use of apartments is not against zoning, but because the building is on the Historic Register, it requires additional approvals. 

Plans include:

  • rehabilitation of the existing facade
  • installation of green roofing 
  • demolition of the existing roof with the construction of a one-story addition 
  • the construction of the five-story building in the back. 

There are plans for a roof deck with included amenities. Nine apartments will reside on the upper floors, and new window installments will be compatible with the original building’s old historical “look”. There will also be ground floor parking available, and some units will be designated affordable housing units.

Why Is This Project Important?

The historic 127-year-old building has been vacant since 1979 when the firehouse moved to a modern station on Girard St. The building has been used only to house paperwork and public record. 

Not only will having apartments, some of them affordable housing, put the building to good use while renovating it and preserving its history, but there will also be some aspects of community revitalization because Make the World Better is involved. While the foundation is typically involved with commercial projects, there will be mentoring and apprenticeship programs to better the community. 

Because developers are still waiting for approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission, no target date for completion has been set. 

For more information on this project and others, visit our website.

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