We were cruising down Fabric Row the other day and spotted an orange sign at 768 S. 4th St., a building at the corner of 4th & Fulton. We'd have to imagine that a fabric store of some kind once made its home on the first floor of this building, but the retail space has been empty for at least a decade, and we're pretty sure the rest of the building hasn't seen much action either. Seeing the orange sign, we were excited because we made the assumption that redevelopment was on the horizon. But when we examined the sign a little more closely, we realized that it was not a notice announcing a ZBA hearing, but it was instead advertising some L&I Violations.
L&I sign on the building
The building has indeed accrued a collection of violations since 2013, including for wall and window maintenance, lack of a vacant property license, and a bulging wall. We don't imagine the building to be structurally compromised, but based on the list of violations it could trend in that direction if the property owners don't make repairs. As you're surely aware, if a building becomes imminently dangerous the City will step in and tear it down, and such a fate would indeed be a shame for this building that boasts some wonderful original exterior details.
Though East Girard has gotten much of the press over the last few years, West Girard has experienced serious growth as well, most notably with the opening of the supermarket a five years back at 2nd Street. Aside from that large project that included the market, we've seen many existing buildings get renovated on West Girard, as was the case with the UPS Store at 3rd Street, and some new buildings rise as well, like the building that's now home to the expanded Paesano's. You can now see an example of the latter at 225 W. Girard Ave., a triangular lot that had been sitting vacant for a number of years. On the plus side, the wall of the adjoining property boasted a phenomenal mural.
We were cruising through Northern Liberties last week, daydreaming of warmer weather, when a zoning notice caught our eye from a distance. There's a small vacant lot at 231 W. Wildey St. which is surrounded by a wooden fence decorated by images of flowers that look like roses to us. This lot has been sitting empty for many years, though the mural on the fence was only added in 2011.
Looking west on Wildey St.
Closer look at the corner
Seeing the zoning notice, we casually assumed that another in the shrinking list of vacant lots on the neighborhood would soon be getting redeveloped and we figured that developers would be building a pair of new homes here. Looking at public record, we saw that the same owner has owned this property since 2007, but we assumed that it would just be a matter of time before public record reflected a sale to developers. And then we looked at the L&I Map to find out about the zoning application and we realized that all our assumptions were wildly off base. Here, we'll cut and paste the text of the zoning application or you might not believe us. And we'll do it in two parts for dramatic effect.
PERMIT FOR LEGALIZATION OF A 10FT. HIGH FENCE WITH MURAL LOCATED ON WILDEY & BODINE STREETS (SIZE AND LOCATION AS SHOWN IN SUBMITTED PLAN)...
The murals of Philadelphia cover so many themes, it's impossible to list them all off the top of your head. Some murals honor historical figures, others pay tribute to neighborhood icons, and some make obscure or direct references to community history. Some murals are serious, others are more whimsical. Some have a point or a mission, and others offer art for art's sake. In thinking about the many murals around our fair city, we confess that we cannot think of any that include an interactive feature, but a new mural that's nearing completion will soon fit that bill.
As the weather warms up (today notwithstanding) and the trees bloom, green space is getting more and more use around town. It's quite possible that people who hadn't visited Julian Abele Park for a few months and found themselves back there recently were surprised to discover 2132 Montrose St., one of the buildings adjacent to the park, getting demolished. Of course, had they read our story from last September, they'd have seen it coming a mile, or at least seven months, away.
Ever since the building housing Ultimo went up on the northeast corner of 22nd & Catharine, we've been waiting for something to happen to the long-vacant building at the southeast corner. A couple years ago, we were cautiously optimistic that the property would get redeveloped into a mixed-use building, but it's been status quo ever since. If you pass by the building today though, you'll notice there's some change brewing.
Bernie Sanders is coming for ya!
Yesterday, artists began work on a mural on the side of this building which will be titled #PhillytheBern. A collaboration between Old Broads and Disto, the goal of this mural is to increase public awareness of everyone's favorite curmudgeonly presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. There's a Kickstarter for the project that has a goal of raising $5,000 to compensate the artists and to cover the costs of the mural and at the time of this writing, they've raised nearly $1,700. When they're done, the building will look something like this:
A long vacant building at 1654 Ridge Ave. changed hands a few months ago, and the developers will soon go to the ZBA for permission to build an addition on the existing structure, with plans for ground-floor retail and seven apartments above. This building once contained a pharmacy and a doctor's office, according to an old listing, but if you live nearby you probably know it as the building with a bunch of murals, including a memorial mural for someone named Wee. We're pretty sure it's all DIY, with no association with Mural Arts, and if that's indeed the case it's one of the best community murals we've ever seen. That being said, we imagine the new owners will remove it once they start construction.
Next door, the former home of Gilbert Shoes also continues to sit vacant, though some long dormant permits were modified over the summer. Perhaps this building will also get renovated in the coming months, though it's unfortunate that such a renovation would likely mean the elimination of the wonderful sign that looks like it's been there for decades.
Technically, the Graduate Hospital neighborhood only has one true public green space, and that's Julian Abele Park, located on 22nd Street between Montrose and Carpenter. This park was founded a few years ago and provides a sliver of grass and trees for the community, also hosting concerts, birthday parties, and other neighborhood events. In the early morning light, it's a pretty and peaceful space.
Early morning view of the park
2132 Montrose St. sits immediately adjacent to the park and has been the object of countless discussions over the years. As the park was coalescing, it was a nuisance property. Around 2011, developer and former restaurateur Ilkur Ugur purchased the property, got rid of the problem tenants, and made some exterior improvements to the property. It's around that time that the mural that we see today arrived on the scene.
It was at the end of 2011 that we first brought your attention to seven homes, then new, at the corner of Mascher & Master in South Kensington. A developer with ties to Tower Investments, or maybe just a subsidiary, had demolished an old warehouse and had plans to build dozens of additional homes at this location, wrapping around Master and Howard Streets. But since then, it's been mostly radio silence. In 2013, some heavy equipment on Howard Street suggested that this project might be ramping up, but it was just a false alarm. Now, finally, we're seeing some new progress.
Last week, a hole in the ground at Howard & Master
At the corner of Howard & Master, with views of a sweet South Kensington mural, a reader recently spotted a new hole. According to permits, three homes will soon rise here. We're getting some mixed messages as we search different public record sources, but we believe a new developer has purchased these lots, and this construction will have no direct bearing on the larger project planned for the block. But perhaps this small amount of construction, along with much more significant construction a few paces away, will inspire the developers to revisit this property.
For a narrow block with homes on only one side, the 1900 block of Alter Street has seen quite a bit of change in recent years. Perhaps the biggest change occurred about three years ago, when a row of five new construction homes replaced a vacant lot. Remember, across the street from those homes there's a cool mural that makes a warehouse wall resemble row homes if you look at it quickly. Also, Greenstreet Coffee Roasters has their roasting facility on the north side of this block, which is why the area sometimes smells like roasting coffee.
Looking east on the 1900 block of Alter St.
Newer homes on the south side
Two more vacant lots are now on the outs on this block, at 1902 and 1904 Alter St.