Stephen Starr is such a staple in the Philadelphia restaurant revival of the late 1990s and early 2000s, that you may have forgotten that his first venture into the biz was in 1995 at the SE corner of 2nd & Market St., where he opened the Continental. This vibey restaurant/lounge in one-story diner building on the corner/two-story building next door was an immediate hit, helping revitalize the Old City neighborhood (for the better or for the worse, depending on who you ask) and kick-start the restaurateur’s empire. Sadly, the doors were permanently closed here back in October 2020 due to pandemic-related dining restrictions, with the site remaining pretty much exactly the same since then.

A look at the closed Continental at the SE corner of 2nd & Market

As much as we wish we were writing about the triumphant return of this iconic spot (come on, Stephen!), we are actually here to check out the buildings/lots immediately next door to the south. This area was on our radar last summer, when plans for an adaptive-reuse close by caught our eye. Let’s start with both 9-11 S. 2nd St. and 13/15-17 S. 2nd St., which have been empty for as long as we can remember. While side by side and sporting similar for-sale signage, this collection of properties actually has two different owners. This used to be a bustling stretch of businesses back in the early 1970s, as you can see from the stark difference between then and now. But now both the two northernmost-buildings ($2.5 million) and the southern building and adjacent parking strip ($2.45 million) could be primed for an exciting adaptive-reuse on these historically protected CMX-3 properties.

9-11 S. 2nd St. with the matching painted doors, with 13 S. 2nd St. sporting the iconic Old City font next to the parking strip
If you ever wondered where people got their foam rubber in the '70s

Immediately next to this parking strip is a full-on parking lot, though it used to be home to a two-story building in the past (one which appears to be non-historic from our perspective). This property is owned by a private owner, but is currently managed by Parkway Corporation, who is just as busy with development these days as they are with parking. This property doesn’t seem to be marketed for sale, nor does it appear on Parkway’s listing of available development opportunities. However, if you revisited the article above, there are whisperings that something may rise here soon, immediately next door to that planned adaptive-reuse we told you about last summer.

The Parkway-managed surface parking lot today
A look at the two-story building that stood here back in the 1970s, seemingly non-historic

For being in such a prime location in the very heart of Old City’s commercial corridor, it is actually pretty shocking this stretch looks as it does today. While the vestiges of the Old City’s grittier past are indeed a fun topic on which to wax poetic, we prefer open restaurants, handsome, actively utilized architecture, and vibrant streets filled with residents, and all just steps away from the newly branded L. With Penn’s Landing Park getting going just blocks away, this part of the neighborhood will be even more appealing soon enough. Let’s hope that these lovely buildings get some care and attention before they meet a fate similar to some other structures several blocks north of here in America’s most historic square mile.