Recently, another business joined the fray, as Booker's Restaurant opened its doors on the north side of the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue. Restaurateur Saba Tedla, owner of Aksum Cafe on the 4600 block, had been planning a restaurant called Babylon Bistro at 5021-23 Baltimore Ave. several years ago, but somehow the business morphed into Booker's along the way. Now it's a hundred seat bar-restaurant that also has live music. We'll properly check it out next time we're in the area during their business hours, but the menu looks pretty solid. And not for nothing, but the buildings are looking much better than they did a few years back.
A reader tipped us off recently that they noticed some demolition activity on the south side of the 1600 block of Poplar Street, but it seems that the demo contractors moved pretty quickly and were mostly finished their work by the time we were able to pay a visit. In the past, there was a rather wide building standing at 1624 Poplar St. which we imagine was at one point affiliated with the adjacent Church of the Living God. The cross above the door seems like a pretty good indication, at least.
In the past
The property is quite large, measuring roughly 9,000 sqft in total. With multi-family zoning, it represents an easy opportunity to build condos or rental apartments by right, and that's exactly what's happening. The developers have a plan to subdivide the parcel into five lots and are planning to build a quartet of quadplexes, leaving one of the lots vacant for the time being. We confess, we have no idea why they're keeping the westernmost lot vacant, we'd think it would make sense to develop that one too. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the last lot is directly next door to a building that dates back over 150 years. Maybe the developers are worried about underpinning?
We've never been to Chima, but we've heard good things from friends that are fond of the unlimited meat on a stick experience. Soon though, the Brazilian steakhouse could disappear from its longtime home at the Kennedy House, at the corner of 20th & JFK.
Looking east on JFK
A posting went up in December on Loopnet, advertising that the space was available for rent. At the time, Michael Klein chimed in, noting that the steakhouse was in negotiations with their landlord on a new lease, perhaps seeking a reduction in their monthly rent. If those negotiations were successful, Chima was planning a renovation effort inside, with improvements to the bar and VIP section on the docket. Klein also indicated that February could be a deadline for the negotiations, and last we checked we've got four days left in the month and the Loopnet posting remains intact. And while we're hopeful that the business and the landlord can cross the finish line, we have to consider the possibility that this space will indeed turn over.
It seems those negotiations didn't go very well. Last month, Alterra received a conditional zoning permit to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed-use building with 65 apartments over 5 stories, ground-floor retail, and 43 underground parking spots. This project appears to be by-right, gaining 15 feet of allowable height due to a "fresh market" bonus provided by the zoning code, and gaining additional density because of a green roof bonus. This information comes from a SHCA notice that went up today, which also indicates that the project is under appeal with a hearing date to be determined.
It was almost five years ago (man, we've been doing this awhile) that we told you about plans for three duplexes on the corner of 36th & Wharton in the Forgotten Bottom neighborhood. The properties at 3536-40 Wharton St. were sitting vacant, though neighborhood bar Tony D's had stood there until just a few years earlier. That building looked like three stories of garbage, so it's no shock it got torn down.
In the past
Earlier this week, we got word that construction had gotten started here. And we needed to see for ourselves, since we keep expecting to see development in Forgotten Bottom but have found ourselves perpetually disappointed by the slow progress in the neighborhood. And by slow progress, of course, we mean that there's been almost no construction here despite the proximity to West Philadelphia and the easy access to the Pennovation Works. But hey, when we zipped by the properties we did indeed see that there's some construction happening.