West Philly

Next door to new restaurant

As student housing projects have drifted into Southwest Philadelphia, we've seen additional development move further west on Baltimore Avenue. Take, for example, the large Greensgrow which opened last summer on the 5100 block. Or you could also consider the event space that opened on the south side of the 5000 block about a year ago.

Recently, another business joined the fray, as Booker's Restaurant opened its doors on the north side of the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue. Restaurateur Saba Tedla, owner of Aksum Cafe on the 4600 block, had been planning a restaurant called Babylon Bistro at 5021-23 Baltimore Ave. several years ago, but somehow the business morphed into Booker's along the way. Now it's a hundred seat bar-restaurant that also has live music. We'll properly check it out next time we're in the area during their business hours, but the menu looks pretty solid. And not for nothing, but the buildings are looking much better than they did a few years back.

Tenants still filling in the first floor

The triangular lot at 4610 Cedar Ave., which happens to be the intersection with Baltimore Avenue, has been woefully underused for a really long time. A one-story building stood here which resembled a tiny McDonald's and housed a PFCU branch until 2010. Though a couple of businesses looked at leasing the building in the years since, nothing opened up. Given the heat on the Baltimore Avenue commercial corridor, this setup didn't make much sense.

In the past

In the summer of 2015, we told you that the building had been demolished and that plans were moving forward to build a mixed-use building here. At the time, we understood that plans called for eight apartments and ground-floor retail but we didn't have much more information. Also, a neighbor had appealed the project, which had gotten its permits by-right, so it wasn't a slam dunk that it was even going to happen. Checking in on the property now though, we can see that it has indeed moved forward, and it looks to be complete.

Would be the 2nd project on the block

As we mentioned when we visited the 3600 block of Haverford Avenue over the summer, it's one of the worst looking blocks in the area. Aside from a colorful artist studio, the northern side of the block is entirely vacant, thanks to a seemingly fizzled effort to build a Mantua supermarket. There's a church and a vacant auto shop on the south side of the block, along with some more vacant land, making for a slightly less bleak situation than across the street. But the south side of the block has at least one upgrade in store, as the ZBA approved plans a few months ago for developers to demolish the empty auto shop and construct a mixed-use building with 21 apartments. You can see though, work has not yet begun.

Project in the works

And lo, another project could be coming to this block! There's some vacant land at 3604-08 Haverford Ave., immediately to the east of the auto shop. These lots were owned by the City for about 50 years and in an amazing and unexpected development, the current owner was able to purchase them. For reasons we cannot understand, the City sold the lots for a combined $55K, far below what they'd sell them for on the open market. Then again, the City doesn't really need money these days so who cares.

Project replaces long vacant lot

About two weeks ago, we came across an event invitation which advertised the grand opening of a project we had covered in May of last year, when the site was but a hole in the ground. Just from looking at it, you might think that the new building at 4050 Haverford Ave. another student housing project, but it was actually conceived by People's Emergency Center as an affordable housing option for low income artists in the area. While anyone can technically live in these apartments, priority will go to verifiable artists who meet the income targets for the project, between 20 and 60% of area median income. The new building sticks out in this rowhome neighborhood, but considering the purpose of this development, we think that's a great attribute.

UCity Square getting its first new building

It was a little over a month ago that we told you that plans were in the early stages for a 16-story building at the corner of 34th & Market as part of an expansion effort from University City Science Center, an effort which will also include the rebranding of its campus into UCity Square. As you might expect, there has been no progress in this short time at 34th & Market, but another UCity Square project has gotten moving just a couple blocks away. About two weeks ago, groundbreaking officially took place at 3675 Market St., an address that was previously home to a low rise building and a parking garage. With heavy equipment now on site, we'll soon see a 14-story building rise here.