west philly local

Just not where we originally thought

In West Philly, the site where a fire took a neighborhood favorite on Christmas Eve in 2012 will become the newest site for Greensgrow, an organization dedicated to increasing healthy and fresh produce options in underserved urban areas.

Beginning in April, Greensgrow will take over the former site of Elena's Soul at 4912 Baltimore Ave., which has remained vacant since the building was demolished following the fire, the West Philly Local reported. The site will operate as an urban farm growing small plant starts and trees; there will also be workshops and a small farmer's market, according to the WPL.

The vacant lot

Greensgrow will fit a need that community members have already voiced. This summer, interested neighbors hosted community meetings to collect input and discuss the possibility of opening a Greesngrow location at the vacant triangular parcel at 51st & Baltimore. That possibility became strained earlier this year, when issues surfaced between the City, eminent domain, and the owners of vacant, bruised buildings along the 5000 block of Baltimore.

Azalea Gardens, a graduate student housing complex, is the latest proposal in a long-contested battle over how to redevelop a historic Italianate mansion located at 400 S. 40th St., which is owned by Penn.

Between Farragut & Market Streets in West Philly, onions and tomatoes will soon be joined by people relaxing. That's where a community park is just about finished being constructed by The Enterprise Center, where it will couple with the already existing Walnut Hill Community Farm.

Park slash farm

According to the West Philly Local, new features include solar paneled lighting and various new seating configurations designed to offer a relaxing environment- as relaxing as it can get next to the El.

One of the three businesses that closed after a Christmas Eve fire at Elena’s Soul at 49th & Baltimore will reopen by mid-August, according to the West Philly Local.

It’s been over a year since we first told you about it, but now it's official: a new Fine Wine and Good Spirits is coming, likely by midsummer, to 43rd & Chestnut in University City. Two spots in a shopping center that were last occupied by a check cashing store and Risque Video will be combined into a single retail space for the liquor store. The store will feature a more diverse collection of offerings than many other Pennsylvania State Stores.

Future liquor store

“I think the group who will be most excited about it I think, frankly, are the students at the University of Pennsylvania,” said Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association chair.

One of the seeds on the budding Baltimore Ave. commercial corridor suffered a tragic end on the afternoon of Christmas Eve when Elena’s Soul burnt down just shy of 50th and Baltimore in West Philadelphia.

In 2009
Recent shot

The hope is its neighboring businesses, Gary’s Nails and the Cedar Park Café, can survive the structural stress created by the demolition of Elena’s, which was declared unsafe by L&I.  Felled debris during demolition caused severe damage to Gary’s Nails, which itself might also have to be condemned, according to excerpts from a letter written by the owner of Elena’s, published in the West Philly Local (WPL).

One of the most appealing off the main thoroughfare neighborhood parks we’ve encountered in a while, sits in West Philly at the corner of 48th and Chester streets, locked up and largely unused.

An entrance

Squirrel Hill Falls Park was envisioned by local artist Danielle Rousseau Hunter. It’s a cozy forest-like corner pocket lot with a waterfall mural on its back wall. From the mid-80s until the mid-90s, Rousseau Hunter spearheaded efforts that corralled resources of neighbors and city and state offices, to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, including donations to design and complete the park. But its use ultimately became a neighborhood saga, according to this 1996 City Paper article.

It appears we could be seeing redevelopment at the old West Philadelphia High School very soon.

The school

A bid from New York-based Strong Place Partners (SPP) to purchase and renovate the building at 4700 Walnut St. into a mixed-use development featuring studio apartments and lofts aimed at graduate and junior faculty at nearby universities will have to be voted on by its School Reform Commission (SRC) before any further action can occur.

The school district is working towards including the item on its December 20 Action Committee meeting, according to spokesperson Dierdre Darragh.