South Philly

What an amazing courtyard

In an age when Philadelphia seems to be losing another former church every month, it warms our hearts to bring you a story about a religious building that's been brought back to life. We were puttering around South Philly last week and stopped dead in our tracks at 6th & Ritner when we happened upon the Preah Buddah Rangsey Temple on the southwest corner. It was immediately evident that the building was originally used as a church and probably dated back at least a century.

Preah Buddah Rangsey Temple

The former church

Looking at historic maps, we see that this building was previously home to the Saint Andrew's Lutheran Church. According to Hidden City, the building was constructed in 1904 and sat on the market for some time during the early-2000s, perhaps because it was in lousy condition. The Khmer Buddhist Humanitarian Association bought the building in 2003 and spent years rehabbing the interior. Part of the rehab process involved turning a vacant lot at the corner into a breathtaking courtyard. It was the courtyard, as you might expect, which drew our attention to the property in the first place.

Pretty good bubble tea, if we do say so

A couple months ago, in the pouring rain, we spied a food truck parked on a vacant lot at the corner of 6th & Moyamensing. Up until very recently, this property looked like this:

View of the property in the past

Today though, Boba & Company has parked their food truck on the property and created a landscaped seating area, dramatically improving this generally lousy looking property.

Boba & Company

As the name suggests, they offer bubble tea for sale, and as the name doesn't indicate they also offer a limited menu of Laotian-Cambodian cuisine. We got a bubble tea when we visited in the rain the other month, but their Facebook page indicates that they're currently doing some repairs so they're not open right this minute to try anything else. We hope they'll be back up and running in the near future, and if you're in the area you can feel free to check 'em out.

Could it be a development opportunity?

We never would have visited the bottom of Point Breeze Avenue if a reader hadn't reached out recently, wondering about the huge vacant lot that's located where the road ends at 28th Street. Always down for an adventure, we made the trip down to the area to see what all the fuss is about with this property, which is almost 44K sqft in size. We can't say we found out much.

Huge lot

Investors purchased 2117 S. 28th St. a couple years ago for under $100K and earlier this year listed it for sale for around $600K. On the plus side, the parcel is enormous and would accommodate roughly 120 residential units by right. On the other side of the coin, it's in a location that would probably not support market rate development at this point in time. I-76 is just a couple blocks to the west and the 25th Street viaduct is a couple blocks in the other direction. To the immediate south is a vast PHA development. Thinking about it further, we're not sure that market rate will ever work here, but we could see this parcel eventually getting developed as affordable housing.

How did we not know about this?

We've had a thing for old theaters since we first walked into the Boyd-turned-Sameric a decade and a half ago. At one time, our fine city was full of old movie houses, but for the most part they've been systematically demolished to make way for much less enduring buildings. A handful have survived the years and been reused though, with the Five Below on Chestnut Street, originally the Arcadia Theater, standing as a fine and recent example. We'd like to think we have a pretty good bead on the former theaters in the neighborhoods in and around Center City, but earlier today we happened upon one we never knew about in South Philly.

Or will be go back to it after the DNC?

Little known fact: It's actually illegal to park your car in the median on South Broad Street.

Normal view at Broad & Mifflin, looking south

Yeah, we know, everyone does it, and they've probably been doing it since well before we were born. But that doesn't mean that the practice should continue. First of all, it looks pretty awful. South Broad Street is one of our major arteries and one of our most photographed streets, and block after block of parked cars in the middle of the street isn't what anyone would call picturesque.

Normal view at Broad & Wolf

Also, it's super dangerous. Despite the traffic lights, South Broad Street feels like a highway at certain points. People are constantly swerving from lane to lane, trying to make lights. And they're probably not paying close attention to whether someone is getting into or out of a car in the median. It's actually amazing that more accidents don't occur on South Broad Street, given the median parking situation. And if you've ever tried to (illegally) park in the median, it can feel like you're taking your life in your hands.