cedar park

After almost two years

Two years after a Christmas Eve fire at Elenas's Soul toppled three businesses along the 4900 block of Baltimore Avenue, Gary's Nails, the third business that closed due to the fire, is now undergoing renovations to reopen.

After the fire

When we passed by a couple of days ago, we saw new lumber inside 4910 Baltimore Ave. as well as a dumpster outside, and work permits in the window. And next door at 4912, where Elena's Soul used to be, a new Greensgrow site, a small urban farm that sells what it grows, was open. Right next door to that, the Cedar Park Cafe has been open since August.

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.

After six years in business, Philadelphia Community Acupuncture Clinic (PCA), located in in Cedar Park, will be closing its doors on October 16th. PCA currently resides in a spacious loft space, located on the third floor of the well-know firehouse building which also houses Dock Street Brewery and Firehouse Bikes. The clinic has no plans to re-open in a new location in West Philly, but will continue taking in patients at its Mt. Airy location at 538 Carpenter Ln.

A longtime vacant lot along the 4800 block of Baltimore Avenue in Cedar Park will soon be home to a four-story mixed-use property with ground-floor retail and five new apartments. We first told you about the project at 4812 Baltimore Ave. in February. At the time, developers from Diversified Realty Ventures appeared at a Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN) community meeting to seek community input about their plans, which required a height variance for a building that would crawl four-feet above the limit permitted by law.

One of the things Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN) Director of Development Impact David Hirchner realized after the group's 2010 discussion about the Baltimore Avenue commercial corridor was the group would benefit from a set of guiding principles to further steer development in that area.

When the Phila2035 meetings to collect community input and asses various commercial and zoning launched last year, it was the perfect opportunity for CPN to supplement the larger City-run effort (the University City/Southwest Plan has since been adopted) with their own local flavor.

We wrote about the CPN survey last summer when members were collecting community input. The results were published last month. CPN received about 500 responses, in the form of 450 online and the rest through handwritten copies that were mailed out with CPN's yearly newsletter, which is mailed out to all households from Cedar to Kingsessing, between 46th & 52nd.

We have more news to share about the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue in the Cedar Park neighborhood in West Philadelphia. A few weeks ago, a small public meeting was held at Seeds Gallery at 5011 Baltimore Ave. by its owner, Sabda Tedla, and local developer Ryan Spak, about their idea to create a garden center on the grass lot at the southeastern corner of 51st & Baltimore, owned by the Spak Group.

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