Nicetown is a neighborhood in upper North Philadelphia that is a gateway to the unique neighborhoods of Northwest Philadelphia. It is a heavily industrial neighborhood and has many vacant factory buildings, particularly on and near Allegheny Avenue. There has been some revitalization on Allegheny Avenue just west of Broad Street, including a renovation of an old industrial building into a school and a large new apartment building for seniors. Further west on Allegheny, beyond the SEPTA regional rail tracks, are a lot of vacant industrial buildings that have been vacant for a long time. One of the largest and most noteworthy of those vacant buildings is at 21st Street and Allegheny and is known as the Steel Heddle Building, named after the parts of a loom that were produced there. This building is now going to be renovated into apartments, representing a major step toward revitalization of Allegheny Avenue’s long-vacant industrial corridor.

This renovation is being designed by Continuum Architecture and Design. It will have 245 rental units, including nine live/work units. The residential units will include studios, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units. The first floor and basement will have commercial space for start-up companies and artists/craftspeople. The historically-sensitive renovation will have large, factory-style windows, a restored cornice, and a restoration of the old “Steel Heddle Building” sign on the cornice. There will be resident amenities and landscaping, including new street trees. There will be 300 parking spaces and 101 bicycle parking spaces, and the building is across from a regional rail train station. 

The renovation of the Steel Heddle Building is a landmark improvement for this section of Nicetown. The large number of vacant factories are an unfortunate waste of infrastructure that scars the urban landscape. The renovation of such a large and noteworthy building on Allegheny Avenue, west of the SEPTA regional rail tracks, will likely start a trend of renovation for the remaining vacant factory buildings in the former industrial zone. 

Written by Gabriel Gottlieb