For the 5100 block of Chester Ave. in West Philly, Farm 51 could represent an important marker in the rebuilding process for a block.

A few years ago, the northwestern side of the 5100 block of Chester featured run down homes and a few vacant lots. Before one of those lots turned into a farm, its owners rehabbed one of the blighted homes on the block, then eventually bought another and turned the vacant lot into a urban farm. We wrote about this last April.

Farm 51

Now we wonder, what might be the fate of the rest of the block over the next few years. It contains a number of vacant, dilapidated, unoccupied homes—four, at least—as well as a handful of vacant storefronts. As one continues along Chester from 51st Street, Victorian homes line the street, where there isn’t a church and medical center, until about 54th Street. Along the way, there are clusters of abandonment and ruin. The homes could potentially be as beautiful of those in West Philly’s historic Trolley Car district only blocks away, but many of them are rundown and poorly (or not at all) kept.

Zoomed in on a couple of homes

Heading west, two vacancies first manifest at 5113-15 Chester, just shy of Paxon Street. According to public record (which we don’t think could possibly be accurate here), 5113 Chester was acquired by new owners for $355K last January, who owe almost $5K in back taxes. Next door, 5115 Chester, was acquired in 2010 for $35K, according to public record. At the far end of the block, there are three vacant storefronts, and a building with an L&I blight posting from November 26.

Vacant storefronts, a pink sticker, and a building that looks like a popsicle

Across the street, work of some nature was being done at 5118 Chester. The abutting two properties, 5120-22 Chester, are unoccupied and buildings in poor cosmetic condition. According to public record, 5120 was acquired in October for $38K. The combined amount owed in back taxes between 5118 Chester and 5122 Chester is about $14K.

Look at the detail among the blight

What will become of these homes? Will they continue to get slowly rehabbed as the surrounding neighborhood improves or will they be left behind? Or worse yet, will they be torn down and replaced with homes that are far less satisfying to look at? Notice the ornate work on the front porches. It’s farfetched to find such detail being fabricated on city homes these days. Could these Victorians ultimately go the way of the Queen herself?

–Lou Mancinelli