mural

Phase 2 of project moving along

As recently as 2011, the northwest corner of 16th & Montgomery was a desolate place. One home with a creepy mural was surrounded by so many vacant lots. It should come as no surprise that all the lots on this corner were owned by City agencies.

Just a couple of years ago

Last summer, we visited the area and showed you that the lots to the north of the home had disappeared. And we warned you that the lots to the south were on the outs. Along with the unfortunate mural. Passing by last week, we discovered that the buildings we previously covered are finished and the lots closer to the corner are under construction.

Next to planned Liberty Square development

Several months ago, we told you about the ongoing renovation of a mixed-use building on the 200 block of W. Girard Ave., located around the corner from the Piazza and even closer to the neighborhood's still-newish supermarket. That project is still progressing, and should soon be approaching the finish line.

Looking east on Girard toward the El. Scaffolding is still up but they're getting there.

While it's nice to provide an update on a project we previously covered, today we're far more interested in the long-vacant lot just a few doors to the west. 225-29 W. Girard Ave. has been vacant for as long as we can remember. A reader tipped us off that it was listed for sale earlier this month for $400K which we confess seems like a pretty high price considering the property's location and odd shape. Still, if someone were to purchase this lot it would represent an interesting development opportunity.

Tearing down churches isn't just a recent fad

Nobody likes a gas station in the city. Low-slung and stinky, they're a necessary evil in our ever-more-car-dependent society. If you're in Center City, and you can't get to Jersey for your gasoline needs, you're probably visiting one of the handful of gas stations scattered around our downtown cityscape. One gas station, on the northwest corner of 22nd & Walnut, has two murals that both pretty up the location and refer to the corner's history.

According to a plaque on the site, the Saint James Protestant Episcopal Church stood on this corner for eighty years. The structure was built in 1870, renovated to include a tower by 1911, and demolished in 1946. The structure was striking example of church architecture on this high-profile corner. An elaborate building on Walnut Street made the corner all the more impressive.

Saint James Protestant Episcopal Church in 1933
Looking west on Walnut Street. Note the gorgeous building next door to the church which is also lost.

In 1995, Sunoco commissioned two murals, hiring artist Michael Webb and Susan Maxman Architects for the job. On 22nd Street, faux-windows have been painted on the adjacent property, and a shadow is cast by the missing church. On Walnut Street, more contemporary windows show an illustration of the missing church on a sunny day.

Hopefully it will inspire change at some vacant properties

We've visited the 1500 block of Manton Street in Point Breeze a few times over the years, most recently to tell you about a DIY mural on some plywood covering the front of a vacant home on the block. Passing by today, it looks like the plywood might fall off at any minute. Anyone nearby have a finish nailer?

Looks like it's falling off the building

Across the street, there's a new home under construction and two more homes on the way. 1532 Manton St. has been framed out and guys were working on the site today. The parcel changed hands last year and the developer is putting up a new three story home. We suspect it will sell for over $350K, like 1501 Manton St. down the street. There's another vacant lot right next door that's owned by another party, but no permits have been pulled of late so we don't know that anything will be happening there anytime soon.

Framing ongoing

Further east, two zoning notices have been posted recently.

A reader was surprised the other day when they spotted a mural on a newish house on the northeast corner of Smedley & Fitzwater. Murals, from what we understand, are a complex undertaking that typically takes considerable planning and a decent amount of time to complete. That's to say that they typically don't pop up overnight. But that's just what has seemingly happened here. Or have we just not visited this block in the last few weeks?

Whoa

It's true that the mural covers an otherwise uninspiring blank wall, and Mr. Mandela is certainly the type of international figure deserving depiction in public art. But if you look a little more closely at the new piece, you'll notice that it has one unfortunate feature that we hope is corrected soon.

About a week ago, we found ourselves on the corner of 16th & Montgomery, and noted that a mural (with a lousy message for kids) appeared to be on the outs, as it was surrounded by a construction fence. Just to the north, we spotted a collection of still-under-construction multi-unit homes that we simply assumed were part of a different project. The home upon which the mural was painted seemed like a convenient marker of sorts, separating what was almost definitely a big student housing development from what would likely soon be another student housing development. As recently as a couple of years ago, the mural home sat on an island, surrounded by a sea of vacant land.

Over a year ago, we brought 2835-37 W. Girard Ave. to your attention. Formerly a pizza place, a fire took place here several years ago, leaving the building in its currently blighted state. Recently, the owner has cleaned up the facade some, taking our advice by adding something that resembles a mural to the first floor.

In 2009
Early 2012
Recent shot

Not only do you notice a less horrible-looking first floor, but you may also have spotted a 'For Sale' sign as well. The building is currently listed for $450K, and includes a 2,000 sqft commercial space and six apartments. Obviously, the building needs a ton of work, but the upside could be worth it for the right buyer. And for the sake of folks who live and work nearby, we hope that an investor steps up soon- this building has been dragging down this block for too many years.

Perhaps last weekend you enjoyed a day of music at the Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier. Tonight, you may enjoy the stylings of the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And maybe you're like us and still listen to Phrenology once every couple of weeks. No matter, there's no denying that the Roots have been one of the most impressive musical success stories to come out of Philadelphia in recent decades. And now they've been immortalized in a new mural.

New mural

Last week, the latest work from the Mural Arts Program was unveiled in a ceremony in the rear of the World Communications Charter School at Broad & South with guests including the Mayor and most of the band. The artists for the mural are known as Amber Art and Design featuring Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and include Ernel Martinez, Charles Barbin, Willis Humphrey, and Keir Johnston. According to Mural Arts, this new mural will be part of the Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Collection, a series of murals "that uniquely capture the rich African American experience in Philadelphia."

Just about anyone who's walked around Philadelphia for a day would agree that we live in a city of murals. Whether they're sprucing up blank walls downtown or serving as placeholders until vacant land can be developed, these works of public art make our city more vibrant, more interesting, and more cultured. In addition, the Mural Arts Program has impacted the lives of thousands of kids over the years, working both as an educational institution and as a community service program for juvenile delinquents.

Winter: Crystal Snowscape in Bella Vista

We mostly find ourselves reporting on murals being covered up by new development, like "Autumn," once located two blocks away from the mural pictured above, or the Noam Chomsky mural now covered on Fairmount Avenue. So it brings us special pleasure to take the opposite approach today and tell you about a new mural that went up last week on the 1900 block of Alter Street. And this mural seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon. You may recall, five new homes were built on this street last year.

In Francisville, the development seems to keep on coming. From four quadplexes at 16th and Poplar, to the major 55-unit Project H.O.M.E. development at Fairmount & Ridge, to a 35-unit development around 19th and Poplar, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. And as we were checking out the progress of some of these larger developments, we spotted a row of fluorescent orange ZBA apps posted at a vacant lot at 19th & Brown.

Pages