Still very much a work in progress

It was just a few months ago that we told you about Chinatown Square, the food court concept planned for 1016 Race St. in a space that was home to Shanghai Bazaar for many years. At the time, it looked as though the place needed a ton of additional work, a rough reality after it had already missed its original expected opening date of February, 2016. So we were at least a little bit surprised to learn that Chinatown Square celebrated its grand opening shortly before the first of the year.  We are constantly hungry, so we figured we'd check it out.

Better than a bunch of building supplies

A couple of readers have reached out in recent weeks, wondering about some recent demolition on the south side of the 900 block of Callowhill Street. The property at 900 Callowhill St. was previously populated by a collection of one-story warehouses that were used for the storage and sale of building supplies, but all of the buildings have been razed and it's now a vacant 35K sqft parcel on the Chinatown-Callowhill border.

In the past

Current view

So... what's happening here? At this point, we confess that we aren't entirely sure.

We've got a partial tenant list

We had a hankering for some hand drawn noodles the other day so we ventured to Chinatown to visit the good people at Nan Zhou. If you've never been there, we wonder what you're waiting for.

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle

Just a few doors down from this amazing restaurant is some major construction at 1016 Race St., a site that was home to a store called Shanghai Bazaar for many years. Over a year ago, Michael Klein shared the news that restaurateur Kenny Poon was planning a food court for this location with eight different options, some of which would be open all day and all night. At the time, the food court opening was projected for February of 2016 but clearly the operation ran into some delays. When we went by, it was clear that there was still much work to be done inside and out for this project, which will be called Chinatown Square.

And a dance club next door?

It's quite possible that you never noticed the Jarvis Building at 1209-15 Vine St., but if you're fond of dance clubs you'll soon be intimately familiar with the handsome old building. The building was constructed a little over a hundred years ago, and according to Volume 24 of The Horseless Age, it was constructed for the Quaker City Cab Company. Back then, Quaker City was one of but three cab companies in Philadelphia, which stands in strong contrast to our Uber-filled modern times. The building hasn't housed cabs in some time, but it's held up pretty nicely over the years.

Renovation at the Jarvis Building

According to a story from, a mother-son partnership from Connecticut purchased the Jarvis Building earlier this year and are now in the process of turning the first two floors into the largest dance club in Philadelphia. The project will also include two restaurants and office space on the upper floors. It's not our scene, but if the developers have half the club connections mentioned in the article, this has the potential to be a successful venture.

They had some nice looking ideas too

It’s a zoo out here, we thought as we fanned our faces with our notebooks in vain the other week. The tour guide was telling us all sorts of interesting snippets of information about the area, but our heat-addled brains could barely concentrate. One of the other people on the tour caught our eye: “Nice cool day, isn’t it?”

Maybe it wasn't as cool as the October evenings we found ourselves longing for, but it was certainly fruitful. As we slogged around the harsh over- and underpasses, buzzed by racing traffic fresh off the Interstate, it was hard to remember we were mere blocks from Franklin Square, one of Thomas Holme’s original five -- and quite literally inside Chinatown. And that was exactly the point.

For the Feds had come. As if by magic (or more accurately, because of the Every Place Counts Design Challenge), Chinatown had summoned the United States Department of Transportation into their midst. These USDOT folks were emphasizing “walkability” and “connections” and “multimodality” and “placemaking” and other New Urbanist buzzwords, and even brought a gaggle of New Urbanist consultants along with them.

Fast-forward two days to the Big Reveal. The sketches were rough, little more than graphite and colored pencil on wax paper, hardly anything concrete -- just pretty visuals for the public to think of when they thought about of the idea of a reconnected Vine Street. And they were a treat! Visions of buffered bike lanes danced in front of our eyes (as well as significantly less sexy ones of bus/bike lanes). Underpasses were lit up with public art.