The 1400 block of Frankford Avenue has experienced staggering changes over the last decade, with highlights including the arrival of two large mixed-use buildings and the conversion of an old industrial building into the largest City Fitness location in the city. The City Fitness building was previously home to the Chalmur Bag Co., which is now fulfilling all your polyethylene, cellophane, and polypropylene needs in a new space in North Philly. Next door, a three-story building with nine apartments and ground floor retail replaced a long vacant lot. Across the street, at 1405 Frankford Ave., Penn Treaty Metals moved away and a four-story mixed-use building rose in its place. This project not only eliminated a longtime industrial use on Frankford Avenue, but it also impacted the Fishtown Rose Garden, a small community green space at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street.
As we explained when we last checked in on this space a little over a year ago, the Rose Garden was utilized as a public green space, with a number of rose bushes, hence the name. As is sometimes the situation with these sorts of ad hoc public spaces, the Rose Garden covered multiples parcels with multiple owners. In this case, part of the property was in private hands, owned by the Penn Treaty Metals folks, and the rest was owned by New Kensington CDC. With the construction of the new mixed-use building in place of Penn Treaty Metals, the previously privately owned land was covered over by the building, but the space owned by NKCDC remained vacant and available for continued open space or possibly redevelopment. Thanks to the folks at Fishtown Neighbors Association, it is not only remaining open but it has also received a major facelift.
FNA bought the property from NKCDC and raised about $100K to convert the former open space into a true pocket park. They’ve transformed the space, installing steel planters with built-in wood benches, new plants mixed in with the rose bushes, new pavers (with sponsor names), and a new source of water. From where we sit, FNA has transformed this space into one that’s far more welcoming and one that will get considerably more use from folks around the neighborhood than the previous iteration.
Especially in light of the dramatic changes that have occurred on this corridor over the last several years, we’re pleased to see that this space will continue to sit open in perpetuity. Don’t get us wrong, we’re generally thrilled by all the construction that’s occurred on Frankford Avenue, but small public spaces embedded into major commercial corridors provide a welcome respite from the buzz of activity, and a place to grab a quiet sit to drink a cup of coffee or to enjoy a chat with a friend. Here’s to hoping that by the time next Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll be able to enjoy the new Rose Garden in those ways and more, and that we’ll be able to do so without packing a mask.