If you can believe it, Grays Ferry Avenue was once a pretty junky corridor in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. The streetscape was dominated by vacancy, with the former Naval Asylum property prominently and aggressively blighting the blocks between Bainbridge and Christian. Eventually, Toll Bros. started working on transforming that property into the thousand units that now make up Naval Square, while smaller developers started renovating existing buildings and building new ones along the rest of the street. Today, almost all of Grays Ferry has filled in, and Naval Square is a bustling community. But two prominent vacant lots have remained, through all of this.
It just so happens, these lots are across the street from each other, at the corner of Grays Ferry Avenue and Christian Street. We profiled one of them, 2509 Grays Ferry Ave., seven years ago, noting that nothing was happening with it. We shared some of the property’s history, mentioning that it had operated as a gas station once upon a time, and that a franchisee had planned to open a Rita’s here. The project went so far down the road that it got a zoning variance. Hilariously, in retrospect, the neighbors fought the proposal, worrying that a Rita’s at this location could become a gathering place, possibly leading to crime and violence. While that seems absurd given the current state of the corridor, it obviously made sense to folks living nearby a decade ago. Ultimately, the variance was overturned on appeal and the property has continued to sit vacant ever since.
We don’t have any insight into the history of 2508 Grays Ferry Ave., though we can tell you that it’s looked more or less the same for the last ten years at least, and it’s been used for parking for as long as we can recall. Recently though, the lot was cleared of cars.
When we told you about 2509 Grays Ferry Ave. all those years ago, we told you that it was owned by Eileen and Gary Schwalb, with an address in Nevada. What we didn’t know is that they also own the lot across the street. A reader recently reached out to us and gave us the heads up that the Schwalb’s have made their way to Philadelphia recently, with an eye toward selling their properties. They’re offering them off the market, and the reader indicated that several realtors/developers have been spied on the site. Unsurprisingly, the owners are focused on getting a “fair deal,” which we imagine they’ll eventually receive. One complication might be the environmental concerns of redeveloping a former gas station, but whoever ends up buying the properties will surely figure something out.