Naked Philly

Fences could be the first sign

As the Spring Arts section of the West Poplar neighborhood (let's just agree that this will be the shorthand name for this area from now on) has blossomed with development in recent years, the former Independence Press building at 11th & Green has remained vacant and blighted. About a year ago, we shared the news that this party pooper of a building was going to auction, which we hoped would mean that development would quickly follow. And while the "quickly" part is up for debate, it seems that the slow gears of change could finally be turning for this property.

Looking up 11th St., we see a construction fence
Fence at Green Street too

Recently, a reader noticed that a construction fence had gone up around the building. With that knowledge, we were inspired to check public record, and we discovered that Independence Press LLC purchased the property earlier this year for $3M. We'd wager that these were the high bidders at the aforementioned auction. And considering the fact that the property was previously being marketed for over $7M, we'd say they got some pretty solid value. With remediation and interior demolition already done, that perspective is only reinforced.

And an example of adaptive reuse!

A couple of years ago, we told you about plans from The Enterprise Center to convert an old warehouse (and former supermarket) at 310 South 48th St. into a kitchen incubator and a restaurant space. We checked in again during the summer of 2012, as construction had moved along but nothing was yet completed. Within a few months, the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises opened its doors- and it's high time we brought it back onto your radar.

Go ahead, cook something.

The Center has commercial kitchen space available for rent by the hour, which is attractive for both established chefs and food service businesses just getting off the ground. They charge an annual membership fee of $100, also requiring liability insurance and food safety certification. From there, members can rent either a kitchen space or a bakery space for thirty bucks an hour. For events and workshops, there's a learning center with a demonstration kitchen and classroom space. In addition, the Center offers food business development services for people looking to start a business or get a foothold in the restaurant industry.

Join other new homes on the block

Yesterday, we were on our way back to town from King of Prussia and cut through Manayunk due to traffic on I76. With Main Street closed thanks to the Streat Food Festival, we got detoured through the neighborhood and fortuitously stumbled upon a project where Sharp Street hits Dawson Street, right near Ridge Avenue. Just a few years ago, the 3700 block of Sharp Street was rather underdeveloped, with trees on one side and cars parked along a vacant strip of land on the other.

In the past
An old view of the block

Oh how the block has changed thanks to one developer. A couple of years ago, Rock Construction Development bought an old building that had been used for parking, and built five homes in its place. Now, they're in the process of building some additional homes next door, filling in the entire side of the block.

We mentioned development opportunity earlier this year

Girard, Girard, oh sweet Girard. So much building planned, we just wonder when. Since plans were first announced last year for SoKo Lofts, more than 300 new apartments at just north of Girard, and Liberty Square, just under 250 new apartments just about next door, we've seen a string of new development pop up along Girard both east and west of Front Street. It's hard to think that some of this development has not been spurred by talk of these huge projects, even though they haven't moved at all as of yet. Of course, construction across Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and South Kensington are also surely part of the equation as well. 

Future Liberty Square, viewed from Girard Ave.

And it seems that another Girard Avenue project is on the horizon, as we recently came upon plans for 225-29 W Girard Ave. for a four-story mixed-use building with three apartments and a commercial space on the first floor. We wrote about this vacant lot earlier this year when it was for sale for what we thought was high $400K, but it did seem like an interesting development opportunity. According to public record, it's still owned by the same party, so we're not sure who's behind the development. It's also worth noting that an interesting mural with three dimensional characteristics is going to be covered by this project.

Shiny new building on the way

For many years, the 1700 block of South Broad Street has been home to the South Philadelphia Neighborhood Library, Health Center 2, and the DiSilvestro Playground and Recreation Center. All three facilties have been looking a little shabby of late, needing at least some minor repairs and ideally a major renovation. That sort of thing costs money, and perhaps you've heard the City isn't exactly swimming in the green stuff these days.

Through a creative partnership with CHOP though, South Philly will soon be getting a brand new library, rec center, and health center to go along with a relocated CHOP primary care facility. Groundbreaking on this project, which is called the Community Health and Literacy Center, took place a couple of weeks ago, and construction (demolition, really) is now underway.