Though the Italian Market Festival was as fun as ever this past weekend, we needed to catch our breath for a couple minutes so we ducked onto the 800 block of S. Percy Street. What we found was a little Bella Vista block with some rather unexpected green infrastructure.

Entrance to the block from Christian Street

Back in 2011, the Water Department and the Streets Department collaborated on a project to repave this block of Percy Street with an eye toward stormwater management. The street needed a new sewer line, and even prior to that job, the street was in dire need of repaving. In addition, drainage was very poor on this block, and many neighbors were dealing with wet basements.

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Prior to the repaving

Over a period of months, a porous “green street” system was installed, the first of its kind in Philadelphia. The system is simple, and entails a layer of porous asphalt on the street surface, a layer of rock below the asphalt, and the ground underneath. Instead of stormwater flowing across the road surface, it seeps into the asphalt, flows slowly through the rock layer, and gets absorbed into the ground. The system has a couple of failsafe measures in case of especially heavy rains, including tie-ins to the sewer system and plastic coating to avoid runoff into basements on the block. And wow, is it ever an improvement over what the street looked like previously.

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After the street was redone

This system is a wonderful way to reduce the impact of rain water on our city’s overtaxed stormwater system. From a conversation with someone over at Stormwater PA, we understand that porous asphalt has been implemented on some other blocks around town, and we know that it was installed on part of the parking lot at the renovated Chester Arthur school yard at 20th & Catharine. We’d love to see it happen on smaller blocks all over town.

Sign about the street

While we were on the block, we noticed the seemingly vacant 810 S. Percy St. and thought it might be a development opportunity. Digging a little deeper, we realized that the home next door has the same owner and it’s possible that they combined the two properties somewhere along the line. At least that would explain why 810 S. Percy St. lacks a doorknob. Considering that most of the properties on the block are only 25-30′ deep, a combo situation would seem to make sense anyway.

Seemingly vacant home on the block

Hey, the idea worked out well a few years back when developers built the biggest home on the block, just a few steps from Catharine Street.

Large home near Catharine Street

From an investment standpoint, it’s usually a bad idea to combine properties like this. But on a block with such small lots, it can actually work out for the best. Case in point. Plus, there’s a “no water in the basement” guarantee.