In a recent interview with the Inquirer’s Michael Klein, Stephen Starr discussed his intention to take a break from opening restaurants in Philadelphia. At least in the immediate future. His reason? Starr says “Philadelphia is my favorite city, but I do believe that the city needs to work on some of its established neighborhoods, like South Street. I think the city government, in the last few administrations, has ignored it. Left it like an orphan. It has more potential for restaurants and retail, but the city fathers have not spent time trying to make it work.” While we’re not sure that we agree that it’s up to the city government to prop up established neighborhoods, we can’t argue with the sentiment about South St. Part of the 600 block is too depressing for words. So here are some photos.

Empty for years

More vacancy

Former Walgreens, former Tower Records, former Ripley Music Hall, former Ripley's, former Hippodrome

Finally! A store! The stalwart Olympia II. Mini Market should be a Chinese restaurant in the coming months

Three active businesses, then a shuttered Gadget Fix and a closing Dudes. At the end is the new Hot Diggity

Think about this for a minute: A closed McDonald’s? A closed Walgreens? Where does that even happen? The conventional wisdom is that rents are way too high on South St., but the rent at the Art space at 604 South St. is $4000/mo for a 2000 sqft. space. While that’s certainly not inexpensive, it doesn’t seem like $24/ft should scare away the likes of McDonald’s and Walgreens, right?

So what is the problem? Flash mobs? Fat Tuesday? A general feeling that South St. isn’t the place to be? We certainly don’t know the answer, but whatever it is seems to be pointing South St. in the wrong direction. It doesn’t seem that long ago that people were lamenting the loss of South St.’s character at the expense of national chain stores; now it seems that South St. would welcome any new business to contribute to the district and fill a vacancy on the street. Passyunk Ave. has shown us that a weary commercial corridor can make a comeback- what will it take for South St. to do the same?