Naked Philly

Positive change for a once-neglected corner

Last April, we brought the corner of Sepviva & E. Firth to your attention, noting the early stages of a six-home development. Previously at this corner, there was a City-owned basketball court that was in poor condition, and according to commenters it was rarely used for play and occasionally used for drug dealing. So no loss there.

In the past

We passed by this corner the other day and it seems that the project is done.

Current view
Five homes on Sepviva St.

We can only find the sales of some of the homes on public record, but from the looks of it, most if not all of the homes have found buyers. Architecturally, the row of new homes certainly stands out from the older homes in the neighborhood, and for us they evoke a bit of a Lego feel. Still, those front balconies will surely be a treat once the warmer weather rolls around.

Great work by PHS and the community

Named after the Italian city where Virgil lived in ancient times, Mantua in West Philadelphia, was place where homes of considerable size were constructed in the 19th century. Trolley lines were extended into West Philly in 1858—and afterwards Mantua grew rapidly while West Philadelphia developed into a streetcar suburb. Mantua was even, at one point, the first stop on the Main Line.

Today, Mantua is is a changing neighborhood. While some blocks have been well maintained over the years, other have fallen into blight and vacancy. But the neighborhood's proximity to Penn and especially Drexel has resulted in revived interest from developers, with new student housing dotting many Mantua blocks. But there's still plenty of vacancy, particularly in the northern parts of the neighborhood.

Map of Mantua

At 37th & Brown, improvement has appeared at one vacant lot, where sits an urban garden with 50 raised beds- one of five PHS Green Resource Centers. Basically this garden, the Mantua Urban Peace Garden, is a place for neighbors and other urban farmers to grow fresh produce while adding to the neighborhood's physical beauty. Leased on 2.5 acres of land from the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the formerly vacant lot now grows a spread of greens—kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, herbs and more.

One of those demolished after explosion earlier this year

Walking on the 2300 block of Naudain St., you'll quickly notice a curiously vacant lot and what looks like an aborted construction project or the remains of an old home. It's the latter- three homes stood here less than a year ago until a gas explosion took them out. Thankfully, a carbon monoxide detector provided a warning to the neighbors and there were no fatalities. And so today, the block still maintains a three-home-wide gash.

Looking west on Naudain St.
Current view

That gash should soon be reduced by 33%, as plans were recently approved for the reconstruction of 2208A Naudain St., a property which is part of the Naudain Court Condominiums and actually contained two units. Interestingly, the owners had to go before CCRA and the ZBA because the property is zoned for a single family home, not two units as was the case with the now-demolished building. Its replacement will maintain a similar look to its predecessor, but it will have a fourth story. Cool that the mirrored front door effect will be brought back with the new building.

How 'bout five instead?

Development in Fishtown is shuffling towards its borders as parcels near Aramingo Ave. have been getting attention in recent months. But developers with plans to build six townhomes at 2631-35 E Norris St. will have to amend their project if they want community support.

The long empty lot

At a community meeting last month, neighbors thought six homes on three lots was too many, according to Matt Karp, Fishtown Neighbors Association zoning chair. Currently, the parcel is a large fenced-in vacant lot with some big trees. The size of said trees suggests that the lot has been this way for many years. Gator Properties acquired the parcel for $350K in 2004 along with the home next door, used as a rental property ever since. Clearly, the developers have been biding their time with this lot.

A corridor slowly evolves

Spring Garden Street west of the viaduct is an evolving mass of a corridor, anchored by the wonderful venue, Union Transfer. The north side of the street has a mix of restaurants like Sazon, Llama Tooth, and Chef King, along with offices, a janitorial supply store, a gun range, a bike shop, and some vacancies as well. A few years ago, we were happy to see Teaful Bliss open at the corner of 11th & Spring Garden, providing a gathering place for the neighborhood. But the shop didn't last there, eventually moving to new digs in Brewerytown. When we passed this corner the other day, we discovered that Crown Fried Chicken has opened in the old tea shop's space.