West Philly

But another restaurant is in line to take over their space

For so many years, Chilis held down the northwest corner of 38th & Chestnut, on the edge of Penn's campus. Recently, the chain restaurant shut its doors and when we passed by recently there were signs advertising a "short term lease" opportunity.

Former Chilis

Apparently someone has already jumped on the space, as the Daily Pennsylvanian reports signs in the windows of the restaurant advertising a new restaurant called Tarka. The restaurant will serve some kind of Asian cuisine, but beyond that we don't have any more details.

Great use for a space next to a gas station

It's been relatively quiet along Baltimore Avenue on our end of late. Last month, an SHCA meeting for plans to turn a vacant 43rd & Baltimore corner into 132 condos and apartments was rescheduled due to a fizzled blizzard. The meeting should take place sometime this month. A few blocks away though, an old auto garage next to a gas station at 46th Street has plans for new action.

Muay Thai kickboxing coming upstairs

Soon, the second floor of that building at 4542 Baltimore Ave. will be converted into the 8 Limbs Academy, a Muay Thai kickboxing gym. 8 Limbs plans to open by March, according to the West Philly Local. It will feature an open floor plan covering 2,200 sqft of space with over a thousand sqft of mats, and will offer youth and adult classes.

This lot has been waiting a long time

For as long as we can remember, the corner of 36th & Sansom has been vacant. This parcel, on Penn's campus and across the street from the bookstore, hasn't been some unkempt lot like so many we've seen around town, but it's still been a curious vacancy at a high-traffic corner.

In the past

Recently, a student reached out, notifying us that a fence had appeared around the property. Naturally, we set out to learn what's going on.

Current view

A story from last month's Philadelphia Business Journal provided the answer. According to the PBJ, this is part of a $77.6M project that will eventually result in the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics. Not only is Penn building a new structure on the corner, but they're also totally renovating the West Philadelphia Title and Trust Co. building, which will be connected to the new building. The design work on the project was done by KPMB Architects.

Long time coming after 2011 fire

Since fire swept through the Transition to Independent Living Facility at 4536 Spruce St. in 2011, the building has sat, a burned out memory, with its facade still intact. That state of idleness will continue, at least for now, as a timeline for redevelopment of the parcel by Mission First Housing Group into 24 affordable-housing units is still up in the air.

“We're in limbo right now,” said Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association zoning chair.

Current view of the property

Developers last appeared before the SHCA in December. According to Grossbach, the SCHA is working with them to address a neighbor's concern—the owner of the adjacent Kingsbury apartment building, who is worried about how close the new building will approach his own. There's also the final streetscape, and landscape issues to be addressed.

Developers substantially decreased the setback following earlier meetings, but final designs are still being considered, Grossbach said, calling it “a work in progress,” and adding “there's no time frame at this point.” The building would include one- and two-bedroom apartments aimed at individuals earning less than $36K a year, according to the West Philly Local.

Great work by PHS and the community

Named after the Italian city where Virgil lived in ancient times, Mantua in West Philadelphia, was place where homes of considerable size were constructed in the 19th century. Trolley lines were extended into West Philly in 1858—and afterwards Mantua grew rapidly while West Philadelphia developed into a streetcar suburb. Mantua was even, at one point, the first stop on the Main Line.

Today, Mantua is is a changing neighborhood. While some blocks have been well maintained over the years, other have fallen into blight and vacancy. But the neighborhood's proximity to Penn and especially Drexel has resulted in revived interest from developers, with new student housing dotting many Mantua blocks. But there's still plenty of vacancy, particularly in the northern parts of the neighborhood.

Map of Mantua

At 37th & Brown, improvement has appeared at one vacant lot, where sits an urban garden with 50 raised beds- one of five PHS Green Resource Centers. Basically this garden, the Mantua Urban Peace Garden, is a place for neighbors and other urban farmers to grow fresh produce while adding to the neighborhood's physical beauty. Leased on 2.5 acres of land from the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the formerly vacant lot now grows a spread of greens—kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, herbs and more.