West Philly

Fixes Up Blighted Home

It was an obituary that ultimately provided the information that led to the transformation of a blighted home near 49th & Baltimore instead of its demolition on the taxpayer's dollar. Detective work from Project Rehab reached all the way to Brooklyn, and in the end a home that had collapsed in on itself everywhere except for the facade was renovated and sold for $335K in a span of 18 months.

In the past

“There are always different stories and always different complications,” said Ryan Spak, who operates Project Rehab at University City District.

Since its conception in 2011, Project Rehab has positively impacted thirty-one homes in University City and West Philadelphia and has created $11.3M in real estate value from distressed properties, according to Spak. In February, we shared the story of another collapsed home at 4923 Osage Ave. that had been rehabbed and put on the market for $350K.

Looks to be something big

We couldn't tell you how long ago a one-story structure appeared at the corner of 34th & Hamilton, which until recently was home to a deli and a laundromat. We can tell you though, with great certainty, that said building is now a pile of rubble. And architecturally at least, nobody mourns for it.

In the past

This parcel actually stretches all the way to Spring Garden Street, and was entirely fenced-in when we passed by earlier this week. It was purchased earlier this year, apparently at Sheriff's Sale, for a rather large sum of $1.25M. While this may seem like a crazy purchase price, a lot size of nearly 10,000 sqft at this location is pretty valuable.

Nice that the building could be preserved

We always like to see a building reused rather than torn down and replaced with new construction. That's why we were so excited last summer when we learned that the Vineyard Community Church was purchasing a former church at 123 S. 51st St. which was originally a fire department second responders building. We told you all about their efforts to turn the building into a worship space and community center.

In the past
Finished product

The changes on the outside seem relatively minor, as the fake stone on the facade has been replaced by new stucco. Additionally, a door has been eliminated, some windows have turned into doors and new glass doors have replaced the six panel doors we saw previously. Inside, the church has brought the building up to code, added conference rooms, created a new worship space, and established a large space that can accommodate 200 but can be broken down into smaller rooms for meetings and such. 

And it's a nice night for a walk!

The last few days have been agonizingly hot to the point that leaving an air conditioned home, office, or car quickly seemed like a sweaty bad idea. Today, the skies are a little gray and we've seen a little rain fall, but we're finally getting a respite from the high temperatures. Seems like a good excuse to make your way to Baltimore Avenue to enjoy the annual Dollar Stroll, no?

4900 block of Baltimore Ave.

This event, from the good people at University City District, is exactly what it sounds like it is.

1) Take a walk on Baltimore Avenue.

2) Stop into one of your favorite businesses along the corridor.

3) Get some tasty treat or useful item for a buck.

4) Repeat until stuffed, exhausted, or both

Mariposa will have banana whips and cookies

Pretty much all of the expected suspects will be participating in the Stroll, including the above-pictured Mariposa, Dock Street Brewery (offering small beers and pint glasses), and Green Line Cafe (hot dogs, carrot dogs, iced coffee, and iced tea). Plus there's gonna be food trucks, and live music, and general awesomeness all over.

Shouldn't there be homes there?

Over the years, several readers have asked us about the unexpectedly vacant lot on the 4000 block of Spruce Street in West Philly. The eastern end of this block is the end of Penn's campus, and includes a Dental School building. And there's an arcade over there too! By the time you reach 41st Street, you'll see a couple dozen gorgeous restored Victorian homes, pretty much exclusively inhabited (and abused) by Penn undergrads. But smack in the middle of the block, there's a lot that's been vacant for as long as we can remember.

Vacant lot
Closer look

We would have guessed that the lot was owned by Penn, who we could imagine might not feel any pressure to build at any given time. Still, considering the institutional construction all over West Philly, it still seemed surprising to us that Penn would hold onto this lot and not develop something. So it came as a kind of huge shock to us to learn that 4041-45 Spruce St. are actually privately owned, according to public record. The lots were purchased by University City Housing, along with a collection rental properties in the area, back in 1985.