Between 2003 and 2013, the Althea Gibson Community Education and Tennis Center at 1000 W. Girard Ave. provided a safe space to neighborhood children at a tennis facility that might have felt more at home in the ‘burbs then on this West Poplar corner. The community center ultimately closed due to lack of funding, and developer Michael Alhadad purchased the parcel for $1.5M in 2014. A couple years later, we openly wondered what would happen with this parcel, opining that its proximity to Temple University would make it a strong candidate for residential redevelopment. In 2017 though, we learned about a plan to build a gas station and a convenience store at the property and speculated that a Wawa was forthcoming. It’s been two years though, and we don’t see evidence of a Wawa, or any other gas station for that matter.
We were motivated to revisit the property because a couple of readers had reached out to us, mentioning some zoning notices posted to the fence around the former tennis courts. It turns out the owners scrapped their gas station plan and were looking to build an apartment building with 120 units, ground floor retail, and 54 underground parking spots. In addition, this plan called for the preservation of the existing building on the site and its use as a pro-shop and tennis center. The continued existence of the building and the plan to reintroduce the tennis center puzzled us and didn’t feel terribly compatible with the rest of the plan. Then we read a Philly.com story which mentioned a deed restriction on the property, requiring that it be used for civic purposes at least through 2026. A possible explanation of the tennis center is that the developer was attempting to follow the deed restriction on part of the property while redeveloping the rest, but we couldn’t tell you for sure. One thing we can tell you is that the zoning application had already been withdrawn, which only adds to the uncertainty surrounding this property.
It’s true that this stretch of Girard is pretty rough, but if you zoom out just a bit, there’s legitimate potential for this property. Like we mentioned, Temple is just a few blocks to the north, and it seems that demand for student housing continues to swell. The other piece to keep in mind relates to the mini-neighborhood that will soon be under construction just three blocks away at 9th & Poplar. Remember, we told you that Post Brothers has a plan to build a pair of 11 story buildings on the 800 block of Poplar, alongside their planned renovation of the former Quaker building on the 900 block. Together, these projects will create 700 new residential units and bring a new vibrancy to an area that’s seen a combination of investment in low density affordable housing and disinvestment in everything else over the last fifty years. If the owner of 1000 W. Girard Ave. can figure out a path forward the works for the community, works with the deed restriction, and works with the bottom line, a new building at this location would make all kinds of sense. Those three hoops might be one or two hoops too many though, and it’s quite possible this parcel will remain in limbo for years to come.