In every neighborhood, some buildings exist as leftovers, hold outs from another era. Sometimes these properties, with the proper attention, become neighborhood assets. Examples in Bella Vista include the apartments at the former De Pazzi School at 7th & Christian and the Bank of Italy building at 7th & Fitzwater, now a dry cleaners. Other buildings serve no greater purpose and seem like they're merely waiting to get redeveloped. This brings us to a small warehouse at the corner of 7th & Kater, owned by Cellini Provisions since the 1980s. Developers purchased the property earlier this year.
Looking north on 7th Street
When we say that the building is serving no greater purpose, we don't mean to impugn the business that's been operating out of there for thirty years, nor are we speaking badly of the playhouse that preceded it or the carpet warehouse before that. We're just noting that a one-story, 2,200 sqft warehouse is a little out of place at this location, and there's surely a higher and better use for the property. The new owners seem to agree.
Have you been to 7th & Kimball lately? Remember, a couple of years ago, we visited this corner and wondered about a facade-less building that had apparently sat vacant for years. In fact, we discovered that the adjacent three properties, owned by the same family since the 1930s, had likewise been vacant for quite some time. A commenter that lives nearby apprently tried purchase the properties or partner in a rehab project to no avail. Passing by a few months back, we noticed missing facade disease had spread to two more properties but we neglected to snap a photo. Instead, here's a look at the properties a few years back when they all had facades.
In the past
Something (a bunch of money maybe) convinced the owners to sell the four properties at 1007-13 S. 7th St. earlier this year. The new owners are four parties with different addresses in South Philly, but we'd have to imagine that they're working together to redevelop all of the properties. Passing by earlier today, we see an active construction site. All but one of the properties now have fronts!
In 2011, the Redevelopment Authority was going to buy the land to create a permanent park, but then decided against it because of possible soil contamination. In 2012, the owners fenced in the lot and in 2013 they tore out most of the plantings. The property has been on and off the market, and was most recently listed for $250K. It's unclear whether developers have stayed away because of the price, because of potential soil issues, or because they don't want to be known as the company that took over a lot that many people want to see as green space.
When we passed by this lot earlier today, we were shocked to see what appears to be the beginning of a new project. It looked like a hole was being dug, ostensibly for new foundations. Given what we know about the soil, we'd have bet the farm that any construction here would involve a slab and little to no digging.
We last visited the Nebinger School at 6th & Carpenter two summers back, when construction was taking place to dramatically improve the school's stormwater management. That project included a rain garden and the addition of an underground water basin, and was completed for the 2013-14 school year. Currently, those improvements are mostly covered in snow, as will happen this time of year.
View of the school from 6th Street
Of course, a schoolyard can always be improved further. Now, the Friends of Nebinger and the school are collaborating on a new gateway into the schoolyard on 6th Street. In December, a meeting with designers from BLT Architects resulted in a scheme for an "open pavilion" that includes a green-covered trellis and ceramic tile details that echo the school's main entrance on Carpenter Street. A reader was kind enough to share the drawings, which still have a very rough look to them. As the process progresses, we'd wager someone will punch this stuff into CAD.
Around the residential neighborhoods, we generally see buildings that are either two or three stories tall. Then we'll also see some four-story buildings, homes that generally arrived on the scene either a hundred years ago or in the last twenty years. One story buildings, we confess, we don't see so often. We can only think of a handful around town, notably the Twilight Lounge at 20th & Bainbridge and Big Eyes Sushi at 7th & Bainbridge. Surely there are others that aren't coming to mind at the moment.
Big Eyes Sushi in its one-story glory
How did this property come to be? Honestly we have no idea, though we'd imagine that it was once a corner tavern like the Twilight. Or maybe it once had upper floors but they were removed, a la the Snellenberg's building at Market East. We seem to recall, before it was a sushi place, it was a thrift shop. Does anyone else remember this?