Is there a more quintessential Philadelphia fixture than the Italian Market near the intersection of 9th & Washington? The stretch along 9th Street has been featured in the famous Rocky montage while serving as one of the best open-air food markets in the country (Note: we strongly urge you to listen to the Rocky theme in its entirety while reading this article). So it is understandable that folks would want it to remain basically intact, for better or for worse. While the streetscape and vendors, all housed under the omnipresent awnings, are about as quaint as one can get, the real estate itch in us can’t help but say “Yeah, but there’s a huge empty lot right in the middle of it all,” which is undeniably true. Here’s a look at both sides of 9th & Washington, or at least what was the view until a few weeks ago.
On one side of the street is a pedestrian-focused stretch packed with retail and commerce. On the other side, a lone hanger-on at the corner. Anastasi Seafood has long been a part of the Italian Market, and their building at 1101 S. 9th St. stood lonely on this large parcel for about 15 years. You may recall, a huge building that was originally used by the American Coal and Ice Company once stood next door, but it was torn down in 2008. The longtime home of Anastasi Seafood recently left us as well, but we’re pleased to share that the business moved just across the street.
You may remember back in 2019 when a proposal for this parcel came through CDR which consisted of a seven-story, 157-unit building that would include over 15,000 sq. ft. of retail space along the Washington Ave. and 9th St. facades. While one might think this would be a slam-dunk from a neighborhood perspective, you would be mistaken! A driveway on 9th, which would lead to an underground garage, got the neighbors up in arms about breaking up the pedestrian focus of 9th Street. However, zoning approval was granted as the City apparently didn’t want to parking access on Washington Ave. to get in the way of the bike lane. Now that’s a first. Let’s check out what’s in store from Midwood and BLT Architects.
While we understand the issues with the garage entrance, we think this project will be a shot in the arm for this section of the Passyunk Square. Having the ground floor encircled by retail will help fill in the previous gap where the vacant lot sat for over a decade. No building permits have been pulled as of yet but given the recent demo activity, we would anticipate this starting soon. We hope that the retailers who set-up in this building maintain the spirit of the Italian Market, as this Philly standby should be treated with the respect and consideration it deserves. The grit that this city is known for perhaps looks its best while shadowboxing through this stretch of South Philly.
Oh, and if you’d like to check out this huge vacant lot in person, this weekend is a great opportunity. The annual Italian Market Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday on 9th Street, featuring music, crafts, tasty food, and the always endearing greased pole contest. See you there?