Bella Vista

And their longtime home has a new owner

Via Bicycle made its home at 606 S. 9th St. for about 20 years, but from the looks of the outside or the inside, you might have guessed they'd been there five times as long. But if you pass by this address today, you'll see that the shop is no longer operating there. Fear not though, Via Bicycle is still with us, just in a new location. Their new space is smaller, but a location at 622 S. Broad St. could result in greater foot and, er, bike traffic.

Former Via Bicycle

You may be wondering what inspired this business to pull up their roots from their longtime retail space. A sign on the building provides some sort of explanation.

They want to build on their large parking lot

Fleisher Art Memorial is one of Philadelphia's hidden treasures, tucked away in a former church on the 700 block of Catharine Street. For those unfamiliar with this fabulous institution, Fleisher is one of the oldest non-profit community art schools in America and holds free and low cost classes and workshops for children and adults. In addition, they have a exhibitions and events throughout the year, attracting thousands of visitors to their sleepy Bella Vista block.

Fleisher Art Memorial

Fleisher owns a sizable surface parking lot on the south side of the street that we actually brought to your attention a few years ago, after a reader noticed some overgrown foliage that somewhat resembled the Cristo Redentor statue in Brazil. When we visited the property last week though, we saw no religious imagery, foliage or otherwise.

And more could be on the way

Every block has its quirks, but the 700 block of Carpenter Street may be one of the most unusual in Bella Vista. Back in 2011, we visited this block and wondered about a number of properties on the north side of the street. We assumed that 723-25 Carpenter St. was vacant because it looked like a large plant was slowly eating the building's facade. As it turns out, the building isn't actually empty and an expired listing from a year ago tells us that the building has an artist studio on the first floor and four rental apartments above. The plant on the facade is still going strong though, and it looks to be moving hungrily along to the building next door.

Half in shadow but you can see why we thought it was empty

Next door, 727 Carpenter St. rises 4 stories and has a tenement-style fire escape on the front of the building. The building has been boarded up for years. Immediately next door, 729 Carpenter St. was a two-story building that looked like the roof was ready to fall in. Both buildings were purchased a few months back for $350K, along with a warehouse located behind the western building. The home has been demolished and looking at the permits, it appears that the four-story building and the warehouse will soon follow. We couldn't tell you what's coming next, but we can say that the properties are zoned for single family use so perhaps we'll just see a pair of high-end homes.

Easy access to Italian Market and wonderful parking lot views

Several readers have reached out to us over the last year or more, wondering about the property at 817 S. 9th St. and concerned it might collapse. That's the sort of thing that happens when a building has a couple of wooden support beams attached to its facade for many months, as was the case until earlier this year. We can't find a good photo of the building when it was in that state, but here's a photo from 2014 that shows the two story building that had been standing at the property.

View in the past, from the south

You can see in the image, the home was listed for sale at one point, with the owners asking for $310K. But nobody was interested, perhaps because the building had serious structural problems and a raft of violations. Developers purchased the property for $150K at sheriff's sale in the summer of 2014, and it's taken a little longer than we'd have expected for them to get moving on a new project here. That being said, they've torn down the old home and there's now a new home under construction at this address which looks like it broke ground a few months ago.

We'd heard about plans for an Italian taproom

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.