It's a sad state of affairs these days on Grays Ferry Avenue, with two shuttered supermarkets sitting across the street from each other. For those that don't remember, Bottom Dollar built a new building on Grays Ferry Avenue and opened in early 2014, but closed before the end of that year. More recently, with the A&P bankruptcy, the Grays Ferry Pathmark closed its doors at the end of 2015. This street wasn't winning any prizes when both stores were open, and now things are definitively worse.
Former Bottom Dollar
Former Grays Ferry Pathmark
We've heard whispers and rumors over the last few months though, suggesting that better times are ahead. Grays Ferry Civic reported a couple months ago that Fresh Grocer could be coming to the former Pathmark space, but we haven't heard anything else about that rumor since then. Meanwhile, the talented people at MSC Retail have been listing the Bottom Dollar space for the last few months, and they're typically very good when it comes to finding tenants- it's what they do, after all.
About a year and a half ago, we wondered about all the retail vacancies on the first floor of Abbott's Square, ultimately learning about a plan for a 20K sqft Garden of Eden grocery store at the corner 2nd & South. Garden of Eden is a small New York based gourmet grocery chain and would have consolidated about half a dozen retail spaces into one while providing the neighborhood with a great new amenity. But we've heard rumors for months that the deal is off. Currently, the space that was slated to become Garden of Eden is just raw space.
A peek inside
We're holding out hope that the Garden of Eden is just delayed and will still happen, but we're not too optimistic. While it waits for the market or some other new tenant, Abbott's Square still has a ton of retail vacancy. To perhaps soften the blow, the building is participating in something called the Window Mural Project, with funding from the Knight Foundation. Artists Buck & Eagle have painted wintery images onto the windows of the empty commercial spaces, distracting passersby from the fact that almost all the active retail on the block is happening on the south side of the street. Check it out.
At 46th & Baltimore in West Philly, Subway is closed, but Jared and his gang still have plans to sell sandwiches at this location. The original franchise operator has left and Subway is looking for another, according to Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association zoning chair.
“I could only tell you I asked the zoning attorney on our zoning committee to see what he could find out,” Grossbach said. “Evidently, and this is the only thing we know, they [Subway] are looking for another franchise operator.”
When the Subway proposal came before the SHCA two years ago after the sandwich chain announced plans to take over a long-vacant corner location at 4533 Baltimore Ave. along the Baltimore Avenue Commercial Corridor, a handful of neighbors decried the proposal because of fears: traffic and big business. First, customers would create parking issues; it's located next to an alley and driveways behind 46th Street homes, they envisioned hungry Subway shoppers zipping down in cars on their way to and from work. Then was the fact Subway is a chain franchise as opposed to an independent small business, on a corridor full of the latter. The store opened in the spring of 2012, entering into a 10-year lease.
A story from Michael Klein clued us in a couple weeks ago about the recently opened Sarah's Place at 29th & Flora in Brewerytown. This building was, for many years, home to Sara's Place, which shut its doors a few years back. But new owners from MM Partners, a company that's done a ton of construction and renovation in the neighborhood, have fixed up the building a little bit and opened the new neighborhood bar. The inside is apparently relatively unchanged from its earlier incarnation, but the exterior has a bold new sign painted on the facade.
With this place now open and Crime and Punishment in the works around the corner on Girard Avenue, Brewerytown's getting maltier by the day. We wonder though, whether the new bar on 29th Street will have a positive influence on some surrounding buildings. Immediately to the north, there's a zoning notice on 1222 N. 29th St., a former salon. The owners are hoping for a tattoo shop, and the application was continued by the ZBA back in August. So stay tuned on that property.
Over three years ago, we wrote about the 13th & South intersection, hoping for change for the two southern corners. Slowly, over the last year, we've learned about plans for the Residence at Twelve40 and Katertown, two adjacent projects on the southeast corner which will eventually mean twenty-one new condo units and a fresh commercial space. This will obviously be a big improvement over the vacant lot we've seen here for longer than we can remember.
Southeast corner getting turned into...
With plans crystalized for the southeast corner and with a bunch of new people living a block away at the recently completed Southstar Lofts, it seems like a fait accompli that the long-vacant retail space on the southwest corner would finally find a tenant. Remember, this place was a tattoo parlor once upon a time, but it's been sitting empty for several years and the retail space was boarded up for a time. More recently, the glass on the first floor has been cracked and the space has generally looked like crap. Despite this, a business is poised to fill this space at last.
A veterinary clinic will certainly cater to the needs of Fishtown residents who have dogs and cats and whatever other animals (will they treat fish at a vet clinic in Fishtown?). And there will be no shortage of new Fishtown residents unless Fishtown falls through the cracks of Philadelphia to the center of the Earth, considering the continued amount of new construction planned or occurring right now, be it the numerous infill developments or larger-scale mixed use projects.
Over the weekend, we were relaxing in Rittenhouse Square and developed a healthy thirst. Searching for a bottle of water, we made our way to Walnut Street, but stopped dead in our tracks when we came upon 1720 Walnut St., home to a Cosi for as long as we can remember.
Just closed Cosi
Huh, a Cosi that closed. Didn't think that sort of thing ever happened. But look at the photo above and the proof is in the pudding. The sign indicates that the other Cosis (Cosii?) in town are still open, but that should come as no surprise. As to why the business closed, we can only speculate. But we would have to imagine that it's got something to do with rising rents on Walnut Street as the block continues to get even ritzier. It's what we would guess happened across the street at Alfa, which closed on New Years Day and remains vacant.
On and around the eastern side of South Street, turnover is often the name of the game. Sure, there are your stalwarts like Lorenzo's, Condom Kingdom, Tattooed Mom, and others, but there's also a good number of businesses opening and closing at any time. Some spaces, though, sit vacant for years. A couple years back, we covered a depressing stretch of shops on the 600 block that were together vacant for quite awhile. Fortunately, all but one of those spaces are now filled. 610-12 S. 4th St., half a block below South Street, have likewise been vacant for a long time. And they've looked kind of crappy, too.
In the past
A couple of days ago, we were on our way to Fabric Row and passed these buildings and noticed they're currently under construction. Check it out.
When we bought a coffee table there fifteen years ago, Uhuru Furniture felt like it very much belonged on the 1200 block of Spruce Street. "Midtown Village" was barely an idea in Tony Goldman's mind, and the Gayborhood had a much grittier vibe in general. But a decade and a half of gentrification has brought ritzy restaurants, high-end shopping, and much less weirdness to the area, and Uhuru has become more of a throwback, with its narrow aisles and furniture piled high to the ceiling. But not anymore. Because a couple of weeks ago, they closed their Spruce Street store and moved to 842 N. Broad St., on the Francisville/Poplar border.
Former Uhuru space
Uhuru, in case you're unfamiliar, is a nonprofit furniture store that sells donated furniture to support the African People's Education and Defense Fund (APEDF). The mission of the APEDF is, according to the Uhuru website, to "develop and institutionalize programs to defend the human and civil rights of the African community and to address the grave disparities in education, health, health care and economic development in the African community."
It's been almost three years since Pearl Art & Craft Supplies at 417 South St.closed their doors. Since then, the building has sat empty. And while vacancy was de rigueur on South Street a few years ago, its resurgence of late that makes this large empty retail space stick out like a bit of a sore thumb. Thankfully, it seems that plans are in the works to make this building return to life.
Signs on the building suggest that a South Street Arts Center will soon be arriving here, with a planned opening in June. Passyunk Post provides more details. Eighty-five studios will be crammed in here over three stories, with space starting at $250/month for 140 sqft. The roof will have a restaurant (makes venting easy) and a sculpture garden. Studio space will be available for painters, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, textile workers, woodworkers, sculptors, jewelers, ceramics-makers, potters, and other visual artists. There are plans to completely rework the facade, but the initial setup calls for a simple tidying up of the existing building front.