Our boy William Penn laid out a sweet city, with the downtown grid creating predictability with right angles and numbered streets. But as you're surely well aware, that grid starts to break down as you head out of the middle of town, and much of that wonderful predictability starts to go out the window. That's a long way of saying that we have no idea how the lot at 1834-36 Vineyard St. came into existence, but we can't imagine it would've happened in Center City. Take a look at this thing, it's a 32' x 240' property that runs between Cameron and Perkiomen Streets, dead ending at the rear of some properties on Wylie Street.
What a weird lot
Until fairly recently, a couple of homes sat on the front of the lot on Vineyard Street and they had the biggest backyard ever. A reader reached out the other day though, letting us know that those homes have been torn down and there's some new construction taking place at the property.
Over the last week or so, Queen Village has seen two new eateries open their doors, both of which have been a very long time coming. Unfortunately, one of them will likely have a much tougher road than the other. So let's consider the tougher one first, eh?
We first looked at the building at the southeast corner of 3rd & Catharine back in the summer of 2011, when we told you that a software company had moved out of the retail space on the first floor, and we wondered what kind of business would take over. The design of the building doesn't necessarily scream out for retail, but when you consider the fact that Dimitri's and New Wave Cafe also share the intersection, at least the location is quite solid. We'd have argued for a Tiffin location, personally.
By 2013, we'd learned that a coffee shop and crepe place would be opening in the space, even though some of the neighbors weren't thrilled about the concept. That didn't happen until a few months ago. The initial business, Cyber Crepe Cafe, only lasted a few months and has now been replaced by the amazingly named Queen Village Cafe. The new business will take a Turkish angle, and their menu will be growing in the coming weeks. With copious other coffee options in the immediate area, this place will live or die based on said menu, so let's hope it grows quickly.
We lived around the corner from Pat's and Geno's about a decade ago, and occasionally found ourselves on the 700 block of Latona Street.
700 block of Latona Street
Every time we walked that block, we wondered about the unusual 706-724 Latona St., a property we jokingly referred to as "the compound." It's like nothing you'll see anywhere else in town, with a mere three homes and a staggering amount of open space behind a metal gate. A zen garden takes up about half of the property, and it includes an actual koi pond, with fish swimming around having a grand old time. The rest of the space is paved, providing easy parking for the residents.
The former Spring Garden School is coming back to life! We first thought about this blighted building during the summer of 2012, and told you that it had been sitting vacant since the 1980s, slowly deteriorating despite joining the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The building sits at 843 N. 12th St., in the middle of the massive Richard Allen Homes PHA development, and we wondered whether the building could possibly attract a market rate developer, or whether affordable housing was a more realistic hope. It turns out that it'll be redeveloped as affordable housing and this makes all kinds of sense.
We got a press release last week, advertising a groundbreaking ceremony for the reuse of this building into an affordable housing development for seniors and veterans. It's a partnership between PHA and HELP USA, an non-profit that focuses on helping the homeless population. The funds for the $14.5M project, the 5th for HELP USA in Philadelphia, come from Historic and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, debt, and philanthropic dollars. When finished in the middle of next year, the property will house 37 apartment units, with 12 of those units reserved for homeless vets.
The northeast corner of 8th & Carpenter has improved dramatically since we first brought it to your attention back in the summer of 2011. Back then, we discovered a building with wonderful bones that had fallen on some really tough times. Though the wonderful bay windows were mostly intact, the windows on the upper floors were all covered in plywood. The cornice was in serious need of a paint job, but you could see that it was once magnificent. And the first floor, which was once a grocery store, retained its windows and looked like it was frozen in time somewhere around 1966. Given its prominent location just a block from the Italian Market, we figured it would only be a matter of time before redevelopment caught up to the building.