baltimore avenue

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.

Shows the spread of development past Baltimore Avenue

Student housing development has exploded in the West Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding Penn and Drexel over the last several years, and it doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. Already, the southern blocks of Mantua are littered with new apartment buildings, and we've covered a couple new projects coming to Haverford Avenue in the last couple months. Closer to Lancaster Avenue, we've seen countless projects on the blocks surrounding 40th & Baring, with more on the horizon. And just yesterday, we told you about a new building on the 4600 block of Baltimore Avenue with retail on the first floor and seven apartments above. If there's anything limiting the new construction of student housing in this area, it's a lack of available properties for developers. Enter the new frontier for student housing development, Southwest Philadelphia.

We're not talking Eastwick here, we mean the northernmost edges of Southwest. Already, we've seen some projects around 47th & Woodland, targeting students at University of the Sciences. And we've also seen the occasional project closer to Baltimore Avenue, like the duplex built over the summer at 50th & Pentridge. Speaking of Pentridge Street, when we passed it the other day we noticed that the 5000 block has experienced major changes of late.

Sure seems like it

A reader tipped us off about a building under construction in Southwest Philly close to Baltimore Avenue, and we have a feeling that projects like this are going to become an increasingly common feature on this here blog. A few months ago, we brought a new triplex to your attention at 51st & Florence, and today we look at the corner of 50th & Pentridge, where a new duplex is getting built. A two story home stood here previously, though it seems it was in poor condition based on some old violations.

In the past

Current view

A developer bought the property at sheriff's sale in 2014, and their original plan called for a quadplex. Somewhere along the line, they modified their plan, removing two of the units. We have to imagine that these units will be offered to students and when considering student housing, the number of bedrooms, not the number of units, is typically the important consideration. So this shouldn't be nearly as much of an issue as it would be in other neighborhoods. You can see, the building rises high over the neighboring home and the homes across the street.

On a block we'd never visited

A reader tipped us off the other day about construction on the 900 block of S. Saint Bernard Street, and since we'd never visited said block we figured it was worth it to make the trip. It's a pretty sweet block, dominated by twins that have been fairly well maintained. Architecturally, the homes have typical West Philly touches, like gabled roofs, front porches, colorful bays, and so on. While each home copies its twin, none of the pairs on the block are the same. For example:

924-926 S. Saint Bernard St.

932-934 S. Saint Bernard St.

As you can see, there's construction happening at 930 S. Saint Bernard St., in between the homes pictured above.

We'd thought this building would be demolished

The 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue has seen some changes in the last few years, notably with a few new businesses joining the corridor. Vix Emporium offers a collection of gifty items, mostly made by locals. Pound Cake Heaven is a small local bakery with especially tasty pound cake, as you might expect. And one of these days, maybe the long-planned Babylon Bistro will open its doors as well.

Babylon Bistro still happening?

When we passed by recently, we stopped dead in our tracks when we spied another business on the block which wasn't there before. At some point over the summer, event space Petite Fete opened their doors at 5042 Baltimore Ave., on the first floor of a building that had been sitting vacant and blighted for years. A couple years ago, there was talk that this building and a few of its neighbors would be demolished and the site would be redeveloped by the Mercy Wellness Center, but it looks like that plan fell by the wayside. It's also worth noting, the neighboring buildings still look like they're in rough shape but they look much better than they did previously.

It's literally a castle

In general, the architecture in West Philadelphia puts architecture in the rest of Philadelphia to shame. We're particularly fond of the many Victorian homes with their colorful bays and expansive porches, but sometimes it's the unique stuff that catches our eye. Earlier today, we were zipping around the blocks just below Baltimore Avenue and came upon 901 S. 48th St., a building that we somehow never noticed before. This thing seriously looks like a castle.

A third location, second in Philadelphia

Back in 2010, the first Nesting House location opened its doors in the Mount Airy neighborhood. This store wants to break the "traditional route of consumerism," offering high quality used goods in a setting that's more boutique than thrift store. They realized success and continued to grow, and in 2013 they opened a second location in Collingswood, New Jersey. 

Now, two years later, owners Jen and Chris Kinka are poised to open a third location at 4501 Baltimore Ave. in West Philly. Before their projected August opening, some involved renovations must be done. According to Jen Kinka, they'll be renovating the entire building which means refinishing crumbling interior walls, rewiring, and fixing the heating system.

4500 block of Baltimore Ave.

Space is on the corner

“We just couldn't logistically figure West Philly out two-and-a-half years ago,” Kinka said. But they wanted to. Before they opened the Collingswood location, the Kinkas had their eyes on two Philadelphia neighborhoods: East Passyunk, and West Philly. They already had a number of customers who drove out to their Mt. Airy Location from West and South Philly. So they knew that's where they wanted to be.

Vacant lot next to Clark Park should finally get redeveloped

The saga of 4224 Baltimore Ave. has taken a satisfying turn.

Photo from awhile ago but it still applies

We first pondered this property back in the spring of 2012, wondering how it was possible that a large vacant lot could exist across the street from the wonderful Clark Park. A year later, we were excited to learn about a by-right plan for 92 apartments, though details were lacking at the time. After another year, we covered an impressive community outreach process from developers the Clarkmore Group with help from U3 Advisors, which resulted in a host of changes to the project. The revised plans called for 132 condos and rental apartments, retail, and roughly 1:2 parking. Last fall though, the project seemed like it was in jeopardy as the developers were looking for an ordinance, but Councilwoman Blackwell was unwilling to oblige despite requests from multiple community groups.

Will move from their space on the 4900 block

Two summers ago, we first introduced talk about Greensgrow expanding from Kensington to a West Philly location at a long vacant lot at 51st & Baltimore. And it was exciting to see that this community urban farm that nineteen years ago started as a hydroponic lettuce farm on a reclaimed brownfield site was eyeing expansion into a new neighborhood.

Possible plans to expand the Mercy Wellness Center seemingly scuttled that idea, even though Greensgrow had held community meetings collecting input for the lot; though all in good faith, it seems. Instead, Greensgrow West opened last spring at 4912 Baltimore Ave., in the space once occupied by Elena's Soul. That space, you'll recall, became available only because the previous business burned down.

Should be less controversial than the Subway

In the spring of 2012, a Subway franchise opened near 46th & Baltimore. At the time, several neighbors decried the move- some were upset because it was a chain and others that were worried customers would zip in and out of a parking alley behind the adjacent homes.

The store had a 10-year-lease, but it closed this past winter. At the time, the Spruce Hill Community Association was told that Subway was actively engaging new tenants for the spot. But the space, at 4533 Baltimore Ave., has remained shuttered. Now, plans for a new tenant have emerged and work has been ongoing at the site.