West Philly

And an example of adaptive reuse!

A couple of years ago, we told you about plans from The Enterprise Center to convert an old warehouse (and former supermarket) at 310 South 48th St. into a kitchen incubator and a restaurant space. We checked in again during the summer of 2012, as construction had moved along but nothing was yet completed. Within a few months, the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises opened its doors- and it's high time we brought it back onto your radar.

Go ahead, cook something.

The Center has commercial kitchen space available for rent by the hour, which is attractive for both established chefs and food service businesses just getting off the ground. They charge an annual membership fee of $100, also requiring liability insurance and food safety certification. From there, members can rent either a kitchen space or a bakery space for thirty bucks an hour. For events and workshops, there's a learning center with a demonstration kitchen and classroom space. In addition, the Center offers food business development services for people looking to start a business or get a foothold in the restaurant industry.

Looks much improved

For most Penn students, the Wistar Institute has long been a mystery. Located at 3601 Spruce St. across from freshman dorms at the Quad, Wistar covers an entire block in the heart of campus despite the fact that it's not affiliated with the University. Though one of their buildings is historic and attractive, the majority of the Institute's buildings were last renovated in the 1970s. As such, they've been uninviting and looked crappy for decades. So it was with great joy three years ago that we told you that Wistar was about to undergo a massive renovation and expansion.

In the past

For most of the last three years, the block has been a construction site. It's been noisy, dusty, and the food trucks have all had to move across the street. But we're going on the record (especially since we weren't personally impacted in any way) saying it was worth it. The new-look Wistar Institute is a vast improvement over the old, with an older building getting new windows and first floor paneling, and a shiny new seven story structure replacing a monolith to the east. Ballinger did the design work.

A really nice addition

Back in August, we told you that Lea Elementary School at 47th & Locust was getting a new playground, or rather a newish playground by way of the now-closed Wilson School. At the time, Greening Lea was working to raise $3,000 to cover additional project costs, including insurance and security. That effort didn't take long, as they met their goal in less than a week when the Spruce Hill Community Association pledged $1,000 to the effort, joining several other individuals in the neighborhood.

This morning, a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the completion of this project, which also includes a new play surface under the playground that had been here previously. That play surface eliminates 4,400 sqft of impervious surface in the schoolyard. Check out this image to see the old and new playgrounds, together with the new squishy play surface.

Recent view

Of course, this doesn't represent the end of the Greening Lea process. Far from it. A much larger (and costlier) effort is on the books for after this school year. When that's finished, the Lea schoolyard should look something like this:

Comes as a shock to nobody

As the vacant land near 40th & Baring has continued to fill in with new construction student housing, it comes as no surprise that existing properties are now seeing some attention from developers as well. Last month, we directed your attention to an apartment building just north of the intersection, blighted for years, which was finally getting renovated. Today we look at 328 N. 40th St., a large building on the southwest corner.

Interior demolition is ongoing

Though the building was occupied until about a year ago, it's looked shabby for quite some time. Still, it has some nice architectural details like an intact cornice, some bay windows, and a fancy entryway. It's also got what looks like an addition on the 40th Street side which was either a functioning flower shop at one point or was intended as a flower shop but the business never happened.

A new hotel for West Philly

Over the summer, while attending a wedding in Connecticut, we stayed at a cute hotel in New Haven called The Study at Yale. Next to the elevator, there was an easel with a rendering of a future hotel, The Study at University City. It's like they knew we were coming!

Project rendering

Developers Hospitality 3 recently presented this project to Civic Design Review, clearing the way for this project to get underway on the northwest corner of 33rd & Chestnut. The building is designed by Digsau, and will stand ten stories high. It will include 212 hotel rooms, a restaurant, and meeting and banquet facilities on the second floor. The building is right on the border of Penn and Drexel, but it will apparently target Drexel families, coming to visit their kids. Currently, the James E. Marks Interculural Center building is on the site. The scale of the new building seems much more appropriate, given the location and all the institutional development taking place nearby.