The northeastern section of the Wash West neighborhood has an embarrassment of health care riches, with Jefferson, Pennsy, and Wills Eye Hospital all bunched up in the same general area. As you're surely well aware, the rest of the neighborhood features some of the most expensive residential real estate in Philadelphia. The fact that the neighborhood has so much going for it makes the row of vacant buildings on 9th Street just north of Locust all the more puzzling.
Looking up 9th Street
So... what's the deal with these buildings?
Great bones but seemingly vacant
Thankfully, our old friend GroJLart wrote about 229 and 231 S. 9th St. for Hidden City last year, providing some answers. 229 S. 9th St. was apparently home to the Shell Art Novelty Company back in the day. For many years, it was the place in Philadelphia to get jewelry made from sea shells. Less exciting, the building next door last held an optometry office. A company called Abbot Inc bought both properties in the early 1990s, along with most of the row of buildings to the north. Some of those buildings are in poor condition and have been cited by the City.
About a year ago, we shared the news that the Society Hill Playhouse was closing its doors after half a century at 507 S. 8th St., and Toll Brothers intended to demolish the structure and build condos in its place. The developers also had their eye on a parking garage across the street which would similarly get torn down and replaced with condos. This sparked considerable debate among readers. Some folks were generally on board with the project, some hoped that the old theater could be somehow be preserved, and others just threw around Toll Brothers hate without much commentary on the project itself. Among near neighbors, it seems the project drew considerable consternation, undergoing multiple changes as the months rolled by and the meetings piled up.
Society Hill Playhouse
Garage across the street
Initially, as we mentioned, Toll was looking to build condos, a la their projects at Naval Square and 410 at Society Hill. That plan went through several iterations, but would have entailed five stories with ground-floor parking. Unable to come to a consensus with neighbors, Toll Brothers then shifted to a by-right plan for two rental apartment buildings with no parking. JKRP Architects produced a rendering to show what that would have looked like.
Last summer, we told you that the Archdiocese had shuttered the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization at 12th & Lombard and we speculated that a developer would soon purchase the building. When we contacted the Archdiocese, they indicated that the property was still in their possession but told us that they would eventually market the property for sale. They even said they would give us the heads up when the time comes. But alas, we got no phone call and no email and now it seems that they've found a buyer for the former church.
The former church
View from Lombard Street
Yesterday, a reader sent us a link to a story from the Philadelphia Tribune with an update on the status of the property. Last month, the Archdiocese gave notice to the parishes in the Black Catholic Community that they wish to sell the church. Thanks to a deed restriction on the property, they can't simply execute a sale but must instead hold a hearing on the subject. That hearing will take place at City Hall in Room 416 on June 6th at 1:30pm.
The murals of Philadelphia cover so many themes, it's impossible to list them all off the top of your head. Some murals honor historical figures, others pay tribute to neighborhood icons, and some make obscure or direct references to community history. Some murals are serious, others are more whimsical. Some have a point or a mission, and others offer art for art's sake. In thinking about the many murals around our fair city, we confess that we cannot think of any that include an interactive feature, but a new mural that's nearing completion will soon fit that bill.