Graduate Hospital

Been a long time coming

The northwest corner of 20th & Carpenter has been through some serious changes in the last decade. Turning back the clock to 2007, the building at the corner was a vacant mess and 922 S. 20th St. next door was a bodega with a well-deserved reputation for drug dealing. Though some of the activities that took place in the bodega were quite illegal, the building had some terrific bones. 

View of the corner in 2007

As the years passed, things changed, as they're wont to do. The building at the corner got a gut renovation, with two apartments upstairs and a corner store below. A few years ago, the folks who own 19 Degrees at 19th & Christian bought the former bodega next door and had plans to renovate the building and open a pho place on the first floor. Somewhere along the line, the renovation plan was scrapped and they demolished the building instead, excellent bones be damned. The property has sat vacant ever since.

But wait! We passed by the property yesterday and it looks like foundation work is underway. Could pho possibly be far behind?

At least not yet

The last decade has been rough for churches in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. The Metropolitan AME church at 20th & Fitzwater was demolished and replaced by six townhomes. The Varick AME church at 19th & Catharine was deemed dangerous and demolished, and ten homes eventually rose in its place. At 19th & Fitzwater, Mount Olive AME is gone and now five townhomes are there instead. Along with those demolitions, the neighborhood has seen a couple of residential conversions, including the Saint Matt's turned Sanctuary Lofts on Grays Ferry Avenue and the two-unit condo building at 23rd & Madison Square. And then there's the First African Baptist church, now historic, which will seemingly get redeveloped and not demolished

Plans for a long vacant building

It's been a rough recent past for 778 S. 18th St., the building on the northwest corner of 18th & Catharine. The surrounding neighborhood has continued to improve, but as far as we can tell, the property has sat vacant for several years. It went to sheriff's sale five years ago, but it's our understanding that new ownership did nothing to change its status as a vacant corner property. Within the last few days though, a zoning notice appeared on the building.

Zoning notice in the window

The zoning notice announces plans for an eating and drinking establishment on the first floor and one apartment upstairs. According to a lively debate on the Southwest Center City Facebook page, the owners were initially considering a nail salon but apparently changed course because a nail place opened up relatively recently on a nearby corner of Christian Street. On Facebook, several people are excited about the plan and are advocating for additional retail within the neighborhood. Others, mostly people who live within a block of the property, are less enthusiastic and seem to prefer keeping the building residential. Of course, it's an academic debate for now, and positions could change next month when the plans will come before the community at the SOSNA zoning meeting.

Place has an interesting perk but some limitations

Every home or apartment has its little quirks. When we lived above an arcade, a powerful jukebox below taught us the bass lines to every popular song from 2001. When we lived immediately next door to a bar, we heard some amazing conversations through a thin bathroom wall. Then there was the house in Boston where our bedroom got no heat all winter, which was totally awesome. We'd imagine you've had some hilarious and not so hilarious experiences as well.

The apartment currently for rent on the 2nd floor or 734 S. 20th St. will make for an interesting home for someone in the near future, but at least they'll know exactly what they're getting into. A reader was kind enough to send us the Craigslist ad for this place, which is located right above Raja Yoga.

Serious progress since our last visit

The CHOP project on Schuylkill Avenue is one of Philadelphia's largest institutional construction projects right now, and it's been steadily chugging along since our last visit roughly half a year ago. Back then, most of the activity was taking place at or below grade, and we honestly weren't sure exactly what the large crews were doing day in and day out. Checking in today, we get a much clearer picture of what's happening now and what's to come.