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.
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.
It was an obituary that ultimately provided the information that led to the transformation of a blighted home near 49th & Baltimore instead of its demolition on the taxpayer's dollar. Detective work from Project Rehab reached all the way to Brooklyn, and in the end a home that had collapsed in on itself everywhere except for the facade was renovated and sold for $335K in a span of 18 months.
In the past
“There are always different stories and always different complications,” said Ryan Spak, who operates Project Rehab at University City District.
Since its conception in 2011, Project Rehab has positively impacted thirty-one homes in University City and West Philadelphia and has created $11.3M in real estate value from distressed properties, according to Spak. In February, we shared the story of another collapsed home at 4923 Osage Ave. that had been rehabbed and put on the market for $350K.
The last few days have been agonizingly hot to the point that leaving an air conditioned home, office, or car quickly seemed like a sweaty bad idea. Today, the skies are a little gray and we've seen a little rain fall, but we're finally getting a respite from the high temperatures. Seems like a good excuse to make your way to Baltimore Avenue to enjoy the annual Dollar Stroll, no?
2) Stop into one of your favorite businesses along the corridor.
3) Get some tasty treat or useful item for a buck.
4) Repeat until stuffed, exhausted, or both
Mariposa will have banana whips and cookies
Pretty much all of the expected suspects will be participating in the Stroll, including the above-pictured Mariposa, Dock Street Brewery (offering small beers and pint glasses), and Green Line Cafe (hot dogs, carrot dogs, iced coffee, and iced tea). Plus there's gonna be food trucks, and live music, and general awesomeness all over.
On Woodland Avenue in West Philly there's a solid amount of reinvestment happening now, and there's more on the horizon.
At 4619 Woodland Ave., HOW Properties plans to build a 16-unit three-story residential complex with a ground-floor retail spot. Three-bedroom units will rent from from $1850 to $2100 a month, with smaller units ostensibly renting for less. The property will likely cater to the growing student demand in West Philadelphia as rental prices increased last year in Cedar Park more than any other neighborhood in the city, according to rental service LiveLovely. HOW also developed The Residences at 1424 Fairmount, a project that knocked down an old seafood warehouse and built a collection of apartments. The design of the structure is similar to some buildings we've seen go up near Temple, with a mostly brick facade and metal-clad bay windows.
In West Philly, the site where a fire took a neighborhood favorite on Christmas Eve in 2012 will become the newest site for Greensgrow, an organization dedicated to increasing healthy and fresh produce options in underserved urban areas.
Beginning in April, Greensgrow will take over the former site of Elena's Soul at 4912 Baltimore Ave., which has remained vacant since the building was demolished following the fire, the West Philly Local reported. The site will operate as an urban farm growing small plant starts and trees; there will also be workshops and a small farmer's market, according to the WPL.
Neighbors say the proposal was developing unbeknownst to them. That was the subject of a November meeting. “Some things were brought to light at that meeting,” David Hincher, Cedar Park Neighbors' development task force chair.
Considering how much new retail is coming and the increased value of the properties on and near Baltimore Avenue in Clark Park and Cedar Park, it’s surprising that we haven't yet written about the vacant lot at 4829 Baltimore Ave., across the street from Mariposa Co-op.
You may recall, the co-op moved to a new and improved space on this block a couple of years ago, dramatically increasing the size of their operation. And it seems possible that their move has inspired others to take a shot with this part of Baltimore Ave., with businesses like Little Baby's Ice Cream opening at 49th Street last spring, and before that, Marvelous Records just up the block, and Seeds Gallery on the 5000 block. With all the retail momentum in the area, it seems like any vacant lot would be ripe for redevelopment.
In Cedar Park, neighbors are upset over a planned development that’s would take place through eminent domain. They say this plan would strip homeowners of their properties and the local community association of their right to create the neighborhood that community members envision. According to local developer Ryan Spak, a public meeting in November clued in neighbors about the PRA's proposal to develop a mixed-use project on parcels now occupied by privately owned dilapidated homes west of the Mercy Wellness Center on the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue. The non-profit owners of the Mercy Center would develop the site. But neighbors feel slighted.
Could these be taken?
Mercy down the street
“Why are we being blindsided by this?” Spak said.
To develop the project, which, according to Spak, was vague and lacked detail, the City would acquire the strip of distressed homes through eminent domain. According to Spak, neither area homeowners nor local neighborhood associations were contacted early in the process. Nor were any local developers already working in the area considered. The main question from Spak and other neighbors is why is there was no public process here. Why was there no RFP? At least, they maintain, there should be a process where various alternatives for development of that area are presented.
On Baltimore Avenue, we’re still waiting for a number of projects we wrote about over the summer to start moving. At 5021-23 Baltimore Ave., the complex legal process for acquiring a liquor license is slowing the opening of the planned Babylon Bistro. If a liquor license cannot be procured, it will drastically change the plans for the restaurant and cause the owners to scale back their investment.
Meanwhile, Pound Cake Heaven recently opened at 5029 Baltimore Ave., and plans for a jazz club at 5027 Baltimore Ave. are also still in place, but moving slowly.
Pound Cake Heaven is open, jazz club still on the horizon, in theory
At the future site of Babylon Bistro, owner Saba Tedla, who also owns Aksum, the popular Mediterranean eatery at 47th & Baltimore, purchased the properties a year ago, with plans to open a ground-floor restaurant and gut and renovate the apartments above. Six one-bedroom units with hardwood floors and granite countertops, starting at $750/month, were completed in October.
While members of Cedar Park Neighbors did work with the developers to guide the design to be in tune with the Victorian tone that lines Baltimore Ave., and while developers added some changes like the use of wood instead of metal on the bay windows, and added a kneel wall to the commercial level, the look of the new building so far suggests that it will still stick out some. Whether that is a good thing or otherwise is a matter of opinion. What is certain is that Diversity Realty Ventures purchased the building in June 2012 for $92K at a time when Cedar Park was jumping off with a swing of new businesses coming to Baltimore Ave., like Little Baby's Ice Cream, and plans for multiple new business at 50th & Baltimore.