East Passyunk

A deco masterpiece

Last week, we gave you some details on the old Smith School in Point Breeze, which is currently being offered for sale along with a bunch of other shuttered schools around town. Today we look at the former Edward Bok Technical High School, located at 8th & Mifflin. It represents a very different opportunity than that offered by the Smith School. It also has its share of challenges.

View of the school from the south
Closer look

The school was built between 1935 and 1938, according to Wikipedia, and was designed by Irwin Catharine. Its construction was part of the Public Works Administration, created as part of the New Deal. Built as a vocational school, Bok taught bricklayers, hair dressers, tailors, carpenters, and other tradespeople over the years. In more recent years, the program at Bok shifted to educate kids in a more well-rounded way, but specialization remained the m.o. here until the school closed last summer.

Make your dreams come true!

About a decade ago, we moved into a house a block away from Pat's and set upon exploring our new neighborhood. We quickly discovered and fell in love with a new bar called Pub on Passyunk East, which had just opened its doors at Passyunk & Dickinson. And it wasn't too long after that Cantina Los Caballitos opened a few blocks down the Avenue. Over the following years, we saw dramatic changes on Passyunk Avenue as commerce exploded, with new businesses opening all over the place between Dickinson and McKean Streets. Today, Passyunk Avenue is a vibrant commercial corridor, and it makes the surrounding neighborhood a wonderful place to live.

If you're so inclined, you can now join in on the fun, though we'd be hard pressed to say you'd be getting in on the ground floor.

A biggie for sale

1701 E. Passyunk Ave. is home to Interior Concepts, a furniture store. As you might imagine would be the case with a furniture store, the building is quite large, with frontage on both Passyunk Avenue and 12th Street. It's currently on the market for $2.2M, which we recognize is a pretty penny. But when you consider the redevelopment possibilities here, with commercial on the first floor and three stories of apartments above, the price seems like it could be somewhere in the range. Still, it would likely require an experienced developer to put together a project that works financially and would be supported by the community. Are you that experienced developer?

Could be a development opportunity

Every few months, we get another email from a reader wondering about 1842 S. 9th St., a mixed-use building on the northwest corner of 9th & Mifflin. This property seems to have apartments on the upper floors and surely had a business on the first floor once upon a time. We couldn't tell you whether the apartments are occupied but we're pretty confident that the retail space lacks a tenant.

The property

This building once must have looked amazing and could one day look great again. The light colored brick provides a very unique look in this or any other neighborhood. The bay still has wonderful details, though it badly needs a paint job. Ditto the cornice. The storefront, with some large new windows, could provide a bright and open look at a retail space. The same folks have owned the property since the late 1980s, so unfortunately it seems unlikely that any change will come as long as they continue to own the place. That being said, change could be coming soon nearby.

PARC will make sure it becomes an asset to the Avenue

Over the past couple of years, we've told you about multiple projects from the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation. This organization has been able to buy up distressed properties on or around Passyunk Avenue, fix them up, and find both residential and commercial tenants. If every neighborhood had a group like PARC, we'd surely be the envy of every major city in the nation, and we'd practically be living in a city on a hill. Sadly, PARC is the exception rather than the rule.

Now, this exceptional organization has struck again. They've purchased one of the last eyesores on Passyunk Avenue and are planing to give it their standard treatment.

It's Colombo's!

You may recall, Colombo's, located at 1934 E Passyunk Ave., caught fire at the end of the summer of 2012. Prior to the fire, Colombo's was set up as a restaurant with a liquor license and some permanent outdoor seating. But the place was barely operational, and its rough-looking exterior stood in dramatic contrast to some of the attractively renovated properties along the Avenue. A couple of years ago, we suggested that a well-conceived and properly marketed concept could thrive at this location. And with PARC's help, it seems likely that this is exactly what will happen.

All thanks to PARC and William Penn Foundation

You've probably noticed that Passyunk Avenue has experienced a dramatic transformation in the last decade. New restaurants, bars, and shops have enlivened South Philly's most famous commercial corridor and it's become a destination for locals and visitors from out of town alike. In addition, there have been many improvements to the streetscape, notably with the revitalization of the "singing foundation at Passyunk & Tasker a few years back.

The Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation has been a strong advocate for the Avenue, and has spent considerable dollars to improve it. Now, for PARC's next trick, they will be completely transforming the triangle created by the intersection of Passyunk Ave. and McKean Street into the East Passyunk Gateway. Check out the current pic versus what it will eventually look like: