What’s With the Blight at 9th & Locust?

The northeastern section of the Wash West neighborhood has an embarrassment of health care riches, with Jefferson, Pennsy, and Wills Eye Hospital all bunched up in the same general area. As you're surely well aware, the rest of the neighborhood features some of the most expensive residential real estate in Philadelphia. The fact that the neighborhood has so much going for it makes the row of vacant buildings on 9th Street just north of Locust all the more puzzling.

Looking up 9th Street

So… what's the deal with these buildings?

Great bones but seemingly vacant

Thankfully, our old friend GroJLart wrote about 229 and 231 S. 9th St. for Hidden City last year, providing some answers. 229 S. 9th St. was apparently home to the Shell Art Novelty Company back in the day. For many years, it was the place in Philadelphia to get jewelry made from sea shells. Less exciting, the building next door last held an optometry office. A company called Abbot Inc bought both properties in the early 1990s, along with most of the row of buildings to the north. Some of those buildings are in poor condition and have been cited by the City.

Buildings to the north also don't look so good

This company owns all of the properties on this block save one vacant parcel, having most recently purchased the red building at 223 S. 9th St. for $825K in 2013 and the building at 215 S. 9th St. for $1.1M. On its face, it might seem odd that this random company has been slowly buying up the properties on this block but hasn't been actively utilizing them along the way. Of course, the address for this company tracks back to Wills Eye Hospital, and everything suddenly makes a ton of sense.

It's clear that the hospital has some use for these properties as part of their long term vision for their campus, but won't be doing anything until they're purchased every necessary parcel. With a recent string of new purchases and just one more left to buy, it's quite possible that we could actually see something happen here sooner than you might guess. And if not, is it too much to ask the hospital to put a little money into their properties so they don't look quite so crappy?