vacant commercial space

They've moved on to North Broad Street

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
Closer look

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."

From arts supplies to supplying art

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.

Current view

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.

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a new coat of paint at 20th & South, where Philly Cupcake had recently shut its doors after less than a year in business. At that time, we wondered how long it would take for the landlords to find a new tenant for the space. Apparently, not long at all.

The storefront

Last night, we spotted a couple of guys working on the inside of the now vacant space, and we asked them about the new tenant. They didn't have much info, except that the space would soon be occupied by an office of some kind. This is certainly not the most exciting news for the ever-growing South Street West corridor, but it's still nice to see the space filled so quickly. Hopefully, the landlord for the former Baja Room space will have the same luck, though perhaps with a tenant that has a little more appeal for the corridor. We shall see.

It's been nearly two years since we last visited 1526 S. 10th St., a one-story building with dreams of a taller life. When we were here the last time, the building was only one story tall, with a tarp on the roof.  But plans were in the works for a three story addition, and a conversion into a large home.

In the past

It's been radio silence on this property for months on end, but just recently a reader gave us the heads up that something was finally happening on this site.

Less than nine months ago, we brought you the news that Philly Cupcake had opened their doors on the southeast corner of 20th & South. At that time, we guessed that they would do a pretty good business in this space, with South Street foot traffic along with people walking up 20th Street to get to and from work in Center City. The growing toddler contingent in the area also gave us a sense that the place would be able to make it work here.

The shop

Alas, it seems a disagreement with the landlord has resulted in Philly Cupcake closing their doors at this location. According to a note left on the door, however, they'll be

maintaining their location on Chestnut Street and will soon open locations in West Philly and North Philly.

Last June, we told you about plans for twenty new apartments for the corner of 2nd & Jefferson in South Kensington. At that time, the large parcel was mostly vacant land, and also contained the remains of an old lumber mill. Last summer, the lot was overgrown to the point that it almost resembled a jungle.

In the past

A few months ago, construction finally got underway on this project from RPM Builders, designed by Harman Deutsch. In case you don't recall, the project calls for two 10-unit buildings side-by-side, with parking in between them. So far, the building on the corner of 2nd & Jefferson is fully framed, and work has begun on the building to the east. As you can see, these structures are four stories tall.

Last summer, we told you about a ministry replacing a cafe at 13th & Catharine, and a vacant commercial space across the street that was formerly home to a Dollar Store. For a year, the space at 800 S. 13th St. has remained empty, and folks in the neighborhood have had to travel an extra distance for the essentials they were formerly able to pick up at the store. But a reader tells us that the space should be getting a new business soon.

Permit on the door

According to the L&I Map, a day care will be taking over this space in the near future. While we're glad to hear it won't continue to sit vacant, it's a shame that it won't be returning to an active retail use for everyone in the neighborhood.

For over a decade, there's been a Starbucks on the southeast corner of 16th & Walnut. And for as long as we can remember, there's been a vacant commercial space immediately to its south. We always kind of thought it curious that such a highly trafficked location would sit vacant for years, but sometimes that stuff just happens. But no longer.

Starbucks from the south and its new neighbor
Ooh yeah

That's right folks, Philly has a second Lite Choice, joining the location at 2nd & South that opened last year. Stop in sometime soon and choose from over eighty flavors! Or just stop in over eighty times and save yourself from having to make any tough choices! Either way, get there soon- the weather will start cooling down before you know it.

It was probably a year ago that we first noticed that Rittenhouse Cleaners at 1703-05 Pine St. had closed down, though the long-time business was apparently closed for at least a year prior, if Google Street View is to be believed.

Two years ago

Recently, we've noticed that the storefront has looked increasingly shabby, and have found ourselves wondering how such a prime retail space could sit vacant for so long. After passing by today, we were finally inspired to do a little digging, and we may have stumbled upon some good news.

At 5th & Thompson, a block north of Girard, we present to you what one might call a four-star corner.

At the southeast corner of this intersection is a huge vacant lot, across the street from the wonderful and charming Taco Riendo. The lot is actually six separate parcels, all owned by members of the  Erlich family, which has owned them since the late 1980s. There was a deed transfer in 2012 from Jacob Erlich to Harvey and Eli Erlich, indicating that the family is at least aware that they own these properties, despite not having done anything with them in over two decades. Looking at public record, the City was, curiously, not charging them property tax until 2011 for these properties, which might partially explain the lack of development. Unfortunately, the failed land valuation that will accompany AVI will dramatically undervalue these lots, which will continue to disincentivize development.