Graduate Hospital

Should be finished by October

When they come back from summer vacation this fall, students at the Chester Arthur school on the 2000 block of Catharine Street will find some major changes at their school yard. A couple of weeks ago, construction began in earnest here, or we'd be more on point to describe it as demolition.

Recent view of the school yard

Until a few years ago, this school yard was basically an asphalt desert, extending from the school all the way to 21st Street. In the summer of 2012, Friends of Chester Arthur raised money to build a playground which has been a huge hit with the little kids in the neighborhood. A couple years later, FoCa raised additional funds to improve the playground, building a seating area and adding some greenery. While these investments have certainly improved the school yard, they've served as a mere preview of the big project that's now underway. You may recall, we told you about a charrette this past fall hosted by FoCA and landscape architects Salt Design Studio, at which parents and neighbors discussed three concepts for the school yard.

Space has been vacant for about a year

The last fifteen years have brought significant changes to the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, and the intersection of 20th & Fitzwater presents a microchosm of those changes. On the northeast corner are six high-end homes, built after the demolition of the Metropolitan AME church. On the southwest corner is Raja Yoga, a yoga studio that opened a few years back in a space that had previously held a bodega with a bad reputation. The northwest corner was home to a beauty shop for decades but the space transitioned to a coffee shop back in 2007.

Will have to go through zoning process, of course

We've had our eye on the building at 2301 Grays Ferry Ave. for many years, suspecting that it would eventually get some major work done. The one-story building, long home to Old Towne Pizza & Sanna's, just doesn't seem to fit the bill considering the location.

Old Towne & Sanna's

Naval Square sits to the south, and the still newish 2400 South condo building is across the street to the north. Also across the street is the Bloc23 condo project, which is currently a foundation waiting for its modular building to arrive. When it does, it'll include 23 condos (hence the name) and underground parking. Further up the street, close to 23rd & South, is the wonderful Grays Ferry Triangle Park, a place for good times all summer long. Within the park, the Igloo and Grace Tavern keep neighbors appropriately filled with sweets and food and drink.

Construction has taken quite awhile

Neighbors in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood have been frustrated by 1942 Christian St. for years, wondering when the vacant building would come back into active use. We first wondered about this property four years ago, at which point it had already been sitting vacant for a couple of years. In the past, the first floor housed some kind of social services office called the Family Resource Center, and the upper floors contained apartments. Though it was sitting empty, the building had wonderful bones and we were cautiously optimistic that it would eventually get renovated. When a neighbor noticed an interior demo crew at the property in August of 2012, we were feeling confident that a renovation was imminent.

We got a sneak peek last night

It's been hot for a week and we're past Memorial Day, so summer has officially begun in Philadelphia, calendar be damned. With "summer" now underway, we can look forward to all of the cool stuff that comes with the season, including trips downashore, John's Water Ice, and PHS Pop Up Gardens. This year, PHS will again operate two gardens, coming to the Viaduct Rail park for the first time, and enjoying a third go-round on the 1400 block of South Street.

Outside the garden

Last night, the South Street garden had a sneak preview night and we made an appearance and snapped some photos. Isn't it great when a work event leads directly to free beer and snacks and some live music too?

Though the location is becoming old hat for PHS at this point, this year's garden represents the efforts of new partners and new operators, giving it a different feel than last year or the year before. Karen Regan from Tallulah & Bird designed the garden, creating new seating arrangements and incorporating a diverse mix of plant life. Also, there's a stage this year, providing a clear space for performances and events. Khyber Pass Pub takes over the food and drink program this year, and it seems like the garden has two bars this year which will improve the flow during busy times. As they have in previous years, Jamaican Jerk Hut will again participate. After all, they're permanently located next door and their food is delicious.