baltimore avenue

Fixes Up Blighted Home

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.

And it's a nice night for a walk!

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?

4900 block of Baltimore Ave.

This event, from the good people at University City District, is exactly what it sounds like it is.

1) Take a walk on Baltimore Avenue.

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.

Nice location for school, green space, and tasty pastries

On Woodland Avenue in West Philly there's a solid amount of reinvestment happening now, and there's more on the horizon.

Under construction

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.

Just not where we originally thought

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.

The vacant lot

Greensgrow will fit a need that community members have already voiced. This summer, interested neighbors hosted community meetings to collect input and discuss the possibility of opening a Greesngrow location at the vacant triangular parcel at 51st & Baltimore. That possibility became strained earlier this year, when issues surfaced between the City, eminent domain, and the owners of vacant, bruised buildings along the 5000 block of Baltimore.

Check it out if you live nearby

Options.

That's what neighbors in Cedar Park want to talk about at a community meeting Thursday night January 30th at People's Baptist Church at 5039 Baltimore Ave. at 6:30 p.m. On the agenda is a discussion about an informal plan to expand the Mercy Wellness Center, add parking, and possibly student housing via the taking of a string of bruised structures through eminent domain in the name of redeveloping the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue.

These could be taken

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.

Thursday's meeting is hosted by the Baltimore Avenue Business Association and CPN, and will also address the issue of blight certification presented in the Phila 2035 University/Southwest District Plan, and advocate for community input regarding city owned vacant lots.

“We want to have an open and transparent process,” said Hincher.

Will anyone do anything with it?

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.

The lot

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.

It could happen

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.

But at least there's pound cake!

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.

It's Coming Along

On Baltimore Avenue in Cedar Park, a new four-story building at 4812 Baltimore Ave. now under construction shows how in one spot the elegant architectural past is meeting the less detailed aesthetic of modern era development.

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.

If a sleek online presence indicates the organization and strength of a civic group, than the Baltimore Avenue Business Association (BABA) is stepping up its game. In conjunction with the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, which brings hundreds in and out of the shops along the corridor, BABA launched its first official website last month.

Stores on Baltimore Ave.

The site, babawestphilly.org, includes your standard information and business directory in a new format. While this certainly isn't groundbreaking news, it means that the Baltimore Avenue business corridor is concentrating on increasing its presence in the neighborhood and online. In case you didn't know, the corridor stretches from 40th to 52nd St., plus a block each way off the avenue.

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