commercial development

A new Lebanese café is slated to open at 708 N. 2nd St. sometime this spring or summer. Members of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association (NLNA) zoning committee tentatively approved the café at their Feb. 25 meeting.

The space

The owners already operate two cafes, including Café Cleopatra in University City, a hookah bar that also sells coffee, tea and smoothies. That location has existed for a few years.

There's a certain charm in being afforded the opportunity of walking a block or two to the local coffee shop for your morning coffee, bagel, or tasty pastry. In our urban environment, cafes represent a detached sphere. They remain the same and are moved neither by the rites of spring nor the hounds of winter.

In Fairmount, neighbors will be privy to this opportunity in the spring when the Fairmount Coffee Company opens at 26th and Poplar. We wrote about the potential of a shop opening at this corner location last summer. Members of the Fairmount Civic Association are interested in adding another quality neighborhood corner café to their streets, and supported the desired variance to make it happen. When the shop opens, hopefully on May 1st, Fairmount Coffee Company will stand as liaison between the community and the arts, all while serving La Colombe coffee, sandwiches, bagels, desserts and dairy produced by local artisans and farms.

In the summer of 2011, a highly anticipated new Superfresh opened on the second floor of a large new building at the corner of 2nd & Girard. Just north of the Piazza, this new structure was not only supposed to give Northern Liberties its much-needed new supermarket, but also a collection of new and exciting retail options on 2nd Street and Girard Avenue. The results here have been mixed at best, with tenants like Family Dollar and TMobile bringing excitement to nobody, but one of the best state liquor stores providing the neighborhood with a significant upgrade over the previous incarnation a block away.

When American Sardine Bar opened on the corner of 18th & Federal a little over a year ago, it was considered a big deal by new and old Point Breeze residents alike. This neighborhood has seen more than its share of hard times in the past few decades, but has experienced considerable residential development in the past few years, as developers have seen new opportunities and buyers as well as renters have been priced out of Graduate Hospital. In spite of the number of new homes and rehabs, relatively few new businesses have opened in the neighborhood, at least until the Sardine Bar opened its doors in the shuttered space of the Wander Inn.

Two summers ago, Olive Restaurant opened its doors at 518 S. 3rd St., a space that housed Ava for some time. Earlier this year, the Mediterranean BYO closed its doors for good, and the property went on the market, originally for an asking price that approached $500K.

The building

You can't argue with the property's location, in the thick of the Society Hill neighborhood and just a half a block off of South Street. And with a large second floor kitchen, a dining area that hovered around 1,000 sqft, and a parking spot, we can understand why the building could have been attractive to a restauranteur seeking a space to call their own. On the other hand, with a dining room looking ripe for an episode of Restaurant Impossible, we can understand why potential buyers balked at the price.

Almost a whole year ago, we updated you on the construction progress of a new construction home on the corner of 31st & Baltz, which at the time was across the street from a vacant lot that would supposedly someday become a supermarket. At the time, we also mentioned that a run-down mixed-use property with some lovely bones, located immediately to the south, had recently gone before the ZBA with a proposal to open a cafe.

In the past

Now, here we stand, a year later. The home on the northeast corner is finished. A giant orange pig sits on the roof of a newly opened Bottom Dollar. And iMunch, the cafe that we told you about way back when, looks like it should be opening sometime soon. Aside from the name and the tagline 'Imbibe, Imagine, Inspire,' we don't know much about this new establishment.

A year ago, we first told you about the likelihood that the Fortieth Street ME Church, located at 125 S. 40th St. would be demolished sometime soon. The church, which was built in 1872 and designed by Sloan & Hutton, housed three different congregations over 135 years. The currently empty building was purchased in 2007 by P&A Associates, the folks who built the Murano, the St. James, and have been doing other development in Philadelphia for many years.

The church

According to a story in today's Daily Pennsylvanian, it seems this beautiful church will, in fact, be torn down by the end of this year. Replacing it will be a one-story, ultra contemporary structure designed by CANNO Architecture + Design, a firm that designed the Artisan Townhouses on Bainbridge Street. We gave you this elevations drawing last time we checked in on this project, and today we have a rendering, thanks to the DP article.

Everybody loves a good limoncello. And in an age where farmer's markets are all the rage, microbrews are commonplace, and artisanal goat meat is something that people actually buy, why not locally distilled limoncello? And after a successful presentation to the East Passyunk Crossing Zoning Committee last week, it seems that's exactly what will soon be making an appearance on Passyunk Avenue.

The building

Presuming everything goes ok with the application to the LCB, and at the ZBA (which will be much easier with the support of the neighborhood), Pollyodd Limoncello will soon be opening a retail location at

Just the other day, we told you about Rue 52, a new cafe near Malcom X Park on 52nd Street. Today, we have news of another restaurant that recently made an appearance on the West Philly scene. Hibiscus opened its doors at 4907 Catharine St. this August, and has since attracted a fan base of regulars that has resulted some favorable Yelp reviews. Their food is made onsite and served fresh and gluten free, ranging from organic juices and smoothies, vegan pizza, cold and hot wraps, salads, soups and quesadillas.

We hinted at it in the comments section of a previous post, and yesterday it became a reality: Munson Manor, the bar/restaurant space at the corner of 20th & Federal, has been leased! By the same guys that opened up the coffee shop on the same corner! And the same people that sign our paychecks!

Thar she blows

While it will definitely be several months before anything happens here (there's another project currently taking precedence), this is clearly tremendous news for the neighborhood. With the success that American Sardine Bar has had in its nearly one year of existence, the neighborhood is ripe for an additional food and drink location. The concept is still a work in progress, and any of your thoughts and suggestions would certainly be welcomed. Suffice to say, though, significant rehab work will take place on the first floor space.