West Philly

Nothing we can do though

Two summers past, we were jonesing for a Slurpee while in West Philly, and visited the 7-11 at 38th & Chestnut with frozen satisfaction in mind. Alas, when we got to the convenience store, we were shocked to see it closed forever, wondering aloud when we'd ever seen a 7-11 close its doors. We shrugged, moved on with life, and expected we'd eventually hear about some major mixed-use project for the parcel, considering its location in the middle of Penn's campus. Time passed, and we revisted this corner again this past summer, sharing the surprising news that the building was simply getting renovated into a Santander bank branch. That effort is now complete.

Eight units replacing it

A reader recently tipped us off to the ongoing demolition at 245 S. 45th St. in Spruce Hill. Seeing the opportunity to snap some photos and enjoy a huge sandwich from Koch's as a bonus, we made our way over there and discovered an old home which was surely once very beautiful is indeed getting torn down. According to our tipster, the property was in deteriorating condition for years until it was finally sold to Glasburg Properties earlier this year for a wild sum of $275K.

Demolition ongoing

Why, you may ask, why would a developer lay out that kind of cash money for a West Philly property that needs to be torn down? The answer is quite simple. The home stood on a huge parcel that stretches back almost two hundred feet and allows for eight units by right in a new construction building. And in a neighborhood where college or graduate student housing is all the rage, the price tag, even with the demolition, doesn't seem quite so unreasonable. Especially when you consider the zoning challenges in this area.

Minor change at 43rd & Baltimore in the big picture

For many years, we delighted in the fact that a pizza place at 43rd & Baltimore thought it was a good idea to call themselves "Wurst House Pizzeria." And it was definitely a sad moment for us back in 2006 when new ownership came in and inaccurately renamed the place "Best House Pizzeria." While it was indeed a house of pizza (and beer), there was little about the place that could be classified as best, unless you were looking for the best place near 43rd & Baltimore to snag a mediocre slice of pizza. In that sense, the name was very apt indeed. But none of that matters anymore because Best House Pizzeria has closed its doors.

Shuttered business
Signs on the door

According to West Philly Local, the folks behind Local 44 and Memphis Taproom will be taking over the place and renaming it Clarkville Beer. There's no additional info on the concept as of yet, but if history is any indication based on their transformation of Kelliann's into Local 44, they will do a solid job creating a beer destination for the neighborhood. Hopefully, the place will continue to serve food.

Awesome project is in jeopardy

When we last visited the vacant lot at the corner of 43rd & Baltimore, we detailed an exciting plan for a thoughtful and appropriate building that had evolved through a number of community meetings. The Clarkmore Group, with help from U3 Advisors and Cecil Baker Architects, came up with a glass, brick and stone panel building with 132 condos and rental apartments that would also include a large restaurant and a retail fitness center.

The corner

Months ago, it looked like the developers were getting ready to file for a zoning permit and go through the process to bring the project before the ZBA. But according to Inga Saffron, they're instead pursuing a City Council ordinance for fear that they won't be able to prove hardship, a necessary burden when you appear before the ZBA. Because the property is inappropriately zoned, the commercial elements and several other aspects of the project trigger refusals. By right, the developers can build a ninety-two unit building with tiny apartments and no retail. Obviously, that would be worse than this:

Surely they'll be more student housing

Between the summer just passed and the last, there's been consistent building along Spring Garden Street in West Philly starting the minute you cross over the Spring Garden Bridge. Closer to the Drexel and Penn campuses, numerous large-scale institutional developments have generally ruled the roost. But deeper into Mantua, smaller residential developments are sprouting up everywhere.

Right now the 3600 block of Spring Garden Street has a few different projects to speak of. For many years, 3614 and 3616 Spring Garden St. were vacant lots. The eastern parcel is now well into construction on a six-unit apartment building. The other, which was owned by City agencies for half a decade, was sold to developers last year and recently got approvals for a quadplex. We have little doubt that these units will be offered as student housing.

In the past
Recent view

The south side of this street is getting a couple of new construction properties whose architectural details don't compare to their neighbors. To drink in the way the standards have changed over time, we just need to look across the street.