Queen Village

Even stronger ties to Back to the Future than you'd expect

We've always kinda had a thing for 514 Fitzwater St., one of the more unique structures in Queen Village. Perhaps you've noticed it in your travels around town, it's really pretty striking with its painted bricks, colorful cornice, and use of tile and ice cube windows on the first floor. Oh yeah, and it also has a clock tower, just in case your Delorean happens to need a charge.

Check it out

Lower floors

Clock tower

View from the west

We don't have a ton to share about the property, but did find some interesting tidbits by combing through the Zoning Archive. First of all, believe it or not, this place is actually a duplex. At some point in its history, a former owner chopped out a section of the building on Randolph Street and created a one bedroom/one bathroom unit. So there's that.

Building has been vacant for quite some time

We were cruising down Fabric Row the other day and spotted an orange sign at 768 S. 4th St., a building at the corner of 4th & Fulton. We'd have to imagine that a fabric store of some kind once made its home on the first floor of this building, but the retail space has been empty for at least a decade, and we're pretty sure the rest of the building hasn't seen much action either. Seeing the orange sign, we were excited because we made the assumption that redevelopment was on the horizon. But when we examined the sign a little more closely, we realized that it was not a notice announcing a ZBA hearing, but it was instead advertising some L&I Violations.

L&I sign on the building

The building has indeed accrued a collection of violations since 2013, including for wall and window maintenance, lack of a vacant property license, and a bulging wall. We don't imagine the building to be structurally compromised, but based on the list of violations it could trend in that direction if the property owners don't make repairs. As you're surely aware, if a building becomes imminently dangerous the City will step in and tear it down, and such a fate would indeed be a shame for this building that boasts some wonderful original exterior details.

Also a nice way to meet all the top pols in town

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen has one of the more accurately descriptive names you'll ever see in the restaurant business. It is indeed on 4th Street, specifically where 4th Street hits Bainbridge at the top of Fabric Row. It's very much a deli, serving gigantic meat sandwiches and baking all sorts of delicious items. And it's also quite famous, having been in business since 1923 and serving as the place to see and be seen by politicos on every Election Day.

And now it's for sale. The business was owned by the same family for its first 80 years until deli vet Russ Cowan purchased it back in 2005. Now Cowan is looking to sell the building and the business for a cool $5M.

Famous 4th Street Deli

According to the listing, the building is over 7,000 sqft in size. The restaurant has seating for 110 which includes the covered side porch. The basement has walk-in boxes and storage. The first floor has all of the restaurant seating, the bakery, and the service counter. Additional bakery and storage space can be found on the second floor, along with three bathrooms, and the third floor is about 2,000 sqft of raw empty space. Whoever purchases the restaurant would get all of the equipment along with the "famous" Famous name.

Have you every dreamed of entering into the deli business? Do you have a spare five million bucks lying around? Do you want to launch your political career from behind a deli counter? Make an offer!

They have a great plan to upgrade this public space

A few hundred years ago, William Penn planned out our "greene country towne" as a grid broken up by five squares. And the core of Philadelphia has pretty much retained that design. But as our city has evolved over the centuries, different spaces have emerged that break away unexpectedly from that grid, sometimes for reasons that are beyond the living memory of most residents. For example, perhaps you've always wondered why Bainbridge Street doubles in width between 3rd and 5th Streets? It turns out that a large market was located here until the early 1900s, when the City removed it because of changing consumer tastes and unsanitary conditions.

GM Hopkins map, 1875

Initially, the City constructed a large green space in its place, but over time the forces of auto-centrism reduced the green space to what we see today, widening the street and creating parking spots on what was once a lovely park space.

We never thought we'd see the day

Over the last week or so, Queen Village has seen two new eateries open their doors, both of which have been a very long time coming. Unfortunately, one of them will likely have a much tougher road than the other. So let's consider the tougher one first, eh?

We first looked at the building at the southeast corner of 3rd & Catharine back in the summer of 2011, when we told you that a software company had moved out of the retail space on the first floor, and we wondered what kind of business would take over. The design of the building doesn't necessarily scream out for retail, but when you consider the fact that Dimitri's and New Wave Cafe also share the intersection, at least the location is quite solid. We'd have argued for a Tiffin location, personally.

By 2013, we'd learned that a coffee shop and crepe place would be opening in the space, even though some of the neighbors weren't thrilled about the concept. That didn't happen until a few months ago. The initial business, Cyber Crepe Cafe, only lasted a few months and has now been replaced by the amazingly named Queen Village Cafe. The new business will take a Turkish angle, and their menu will be growing in the coming weeks. With copious other coffee options in the immediate area, this place will live or die based on said menu, so let's hope it grows quickly.