Artisan Lofts proposed for Brush Factory site


Since 2005, the massive Brush Factory at the corners of 12th and Jackson Streets has remained empty and idle. Broken windows grace the structure that lies between 12th and Iseminger Streets and Jackson Street and Snyder Avenue.

It seems, developer Tony Rufu, Jr. has a plan for what to do with his Lower Moyamensing-based holding. He shared those details for the proposed Artisan Lofts with about 80 residents at the December 18th meeting held at Methodist Hospital, 2301 S. Broad St. With architect Anthony Tsirantonkakis of T + Associates by his side, the duo presented a plan to convert the building into 164 “luxury” apartment rentals.

In the first of what is expected to be several meetings, the group shared a slide show of the proposed plan with potential onsite amenities expected to include a 24-hour fitness center and possibly a green roof.

Todd Schwartz, vice president and chair of zoning and planning for the Lower Moyamensing Civic Asociation, concurred that residential units appear to be the best use of the property.

“I also believe that because the site utilizes the excellent public transportation infrastructure the impact of increased automobile traffic will be minimal,” he said.

It is located on the 23 bus line and two blocks from the Broad Street Subway. Also, the 4, 58 and 47 bus lines are a short walk away.

In addition to the apartments, the plans call for 62 parking spaces (bicycle, motorcycle, scooter and Car Share parking, too) and a 24-hour doorman. The total is within the city’s new zoning rules for parking, which requires one parking space for every three units.

The Brush Factory first opened in 1926, and operated as the Lieberman Brush Factory. In 1969, Best Liebco (a subsidiary of Sherwin Williams) bought the factory that produced paint brushes until its ’05 closing, laying off 55 workers.

More recently, the blight surrounding the building has become an eyesore among local residents hence attracting negative attention from the City’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. According to published reports, the property was cited for having hundreds of boarded or missing windows in violation of the ‘doors and windows’ ordinance (which authorizes the Blight Court to impose a fine of up to $300 per day, per opening).

“It’s a pretty active neighborhood,” Dina Scioli, of the 1000 block of Daly Street, said. “They just neglected it.”

The mother of two rents within a stone’s throw of the corner in question, but said she wouldn’t mind seeing something done about the space in need. She reported reading about “knockout game” activities going down near the Factory, a post she found on the Facebook page for Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back.

Sarah Slawski, a close factory neighbor and resident of the 2100 block of South 12th Street, was present at the rezoning presentation and said her primary concern is getting the space moving towards renovation and away from idolatry.

“They dump their trash, there are drug exchanges, and there’s no one to watch,” she explained. “It’s a dark space and there are good street lights, but that’s not good enough. The graffiti is abundant and they won’t go above what they can reach [as she pointed toward a collection scribbles].”

The immediate area has both mainstays and empty spaces waiting to be converted. Epiphany of Our Lord Church, 1121 Jackson St., is an anchor of the neighborhood, as is the nearby Our Lady of Hope Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St. There also is an empty Superior Plumbing space, 1218 Snyder Ave., rumored to be slated for conversion into a beer distributor.

The Brush Factory renovation is in pretty good company with a handful of other redevelopment and reuse projects in different phases of planning and execution: The Wharton Street Lofts, 1148 Wharton St., (formerly the Annunciation B.V.M. School) has commenced leasing; the old Mt. Sinai building on the 400 block of Reed Street just saw redevelopment plans to turn it into 38 townhouses and 198 apartments; and a couple weeks ago, the Philadelphia Zoning Board approved variances for 75 townhomes (and 75 parking spaces) to be built in Queen Village at Columbus Boulevard and Swanson Street.

With plans just now being discussed at LoMo zoning meetings, it’s too soon to put a completion time line on the project. The Artisan Lofts’ groundbreaking could still be several months into the future.

Schwartz is hopeful that an aesthetic facelift and an influx of young money will bolster the neighborhood.

“While the project is still in the initial phase, as permits and zoning need to be secured, the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association will engage the community and developer to ensure that there is a positive impact on the neighborhood,” he said. 

Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at or ext. 117.