Snapdragon Flowers & Gifts to set up shop on Baltimore Ave mid-December

Posted on 24 November 2015

SnapdragonFlowersSnapdragon Flowers & Gifts will soon be the newest business to join the Baltimore Ave shopping area in West Philly.

Owner Tolani Lightfoot resides in the Cedar Park neighborhood, where she settled and bought a house when she relocated from Portland, Oregon eight years ago. “I feel like West Philly is one of those wonderful neighborhoods where you have to live there and understand the neighborhood before opening a business,” she said.

Tolani, who has worked in the industry for 10 years, says she realized that there was a need for a florist shop with her creative vision after she was told that “she was too creative” at her former workplace at a traditional florist shop. The shop will offer a wide range of botanically inspired products, including ready-made floral arrangements. Snapdragon Flowers & Gifts will offer arrangements both for people and events. Some niche market arrangements will include small-scale urban gardens, living arrangements for the home, vertical gardens, Victorian inspired indoor gardens and terrariums along with drought-resistant plants.  Continue Reading

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Independence Charter School West to open in September 2016, holding information sessions

Posted on 24 November 2015

As was reported earlier this year, one of Philadelphia’s more successful charter schools, Independence Charter School, will be opening a new elementary school (ICS West) in Southwest Philadelphia in September 2016. The school will be primarily serving families in Southwest and West Philadelphia, as well as Overbrook.

To learn more about the school and its enrollment process, families are invited to one of the open information sessions held at area libraries. Two next information sessions are scheduled at the Cobbs Creek library. Updated information on community meetings can be found on the school website.

Currently, the following meetings are scheduled for prospective families:

Monday, Dec. 7, 10-11 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 11, 10-11 a.m.
Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek library branch
5800 Cobbs Creek Parkway (59th/Baltimore Ave.)

The school will initially be a K-3 for September 2016. A grade will be added each year, ultimately becoming a K-8 school, according to ICS West board member Dyana Reid.

The school is focused on global citizenship and language acquisition, and instruction will be about half Spanish/half English. “Students and families are not expected to already speak Spanish, though it’s fine if they do,” says ICS West board member Dyana Reid.  Continue Reading

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Locust Moon Comic Shop closing its doors

Posted on 23 November 2015


Locust Moon comic shop is closing at the end of 2015 (Archived photo/West Philly Local)

We’re sad to report that West Philly’s only comic shop, Locust Moon Comics, will close at the end of the year, after just a few years of operation on 40th Street near Chestnut. The store started on Locust street in the old Urban Outfitters building in 2009 and moved to 40th and Chestnut in 2012.

Locust Moon is not just a comic shop, but also a small press, and owners Josh O’Neil and Chris Stevens want to focus on publishing after shutting down the store. Here’s what they posted on Facebook:

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for six wonderful years. We plan to redouble our focus on making and publishing comics. We’ve loved being a part of this neighborhood, and have cherished the chance to serve up piping hot comics to a smart and hungry readership.

Thank you for your passion, your superlative taste, your support, and all the love you’ve showered on our cats. We never would have made it this far without you.

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More jobs, fewer kids and a lot of bike commuters: ‘The State of University City 2016’ report released

Posted on 20 November 2015

The University City District’s recently released “The State of University City” report confirmed the worst-kept secret this side of the Schuylkill: The Meds-and-Eds juggernaut that fuels this part of the city is gaining speed.

StateofUCity2016The report, released every fall, tracks everything from rents, to occupancy rates in office buildings to the number of bike commuters in the University City District defined as the Schuylkill River to 50th Street, south to Woodland Avenue and north to Market Street and, in the Powelton neighborhoods, north again to Spring Garden Street.

According to this year’s report, a whopping 77 percent of the jobs in the area is in education and health care with “entertainment, hospitality and retail” in second with 8 percent. The University of Pennsylvania and Penn Medicine alone now account for more than 40,000 of those jobs.

The report shows that all of those good-paying jobs are attracting a lot of young, well-educated people. About 40 percent of the area’s population is between 20 years of age and 29. The number of children (5-14) in the area has dropped steadily since 2000.

Rents have also increased in most neighborhoods. The steepest increases have been in the Powelton Village neighborhood, where the median rent is just over $1,500 per month. The highest rents are in the “Central University City” area (roughly east of 38th Street and south of Market Street), where the median rent is just over $2,500 per month.

Median home prices grew from about $100,000 in 2000 to $300,000 in 2006, but have remained at that level since then, according to the report. But, of course, real estate prices vary widely by neighborhood. Prices in Spruce Hill, which includes the Penn Alexander School catchment, are just over $375,000. That’s a slight decrease compared to 2009 prices. The lowest median prices are in West Powelton at about $200,000.

Many residents’ fear of a loss of economic and racial diversity has followed the economic gains in the area. Philly talked to Seth Budick, senior manager of policy and research for UCD, ahead of the report’s release. “Prices are going up. The social consequences of that I don’t think we’re going to comment on too much,” Budick said. “For the most part, though, if you look at that rent figure … you’ll see a huge diversification.”

Here are some other tidbits:

• The population has steadily grown since 1990 and now stands at about 51,000.

• Well over 50 percent of people have at least a bachelor’s degree, while in the city as a whole that number is closer to 24 percent.

• University City District residents are three times as likely to commute on foot, bike or transportation than by car. Only 23 percent of residents reported commuting by car, compared to 59 percent of Philadelphians in general and 86 percent of all Americans. That number has remained steady since 2000.

• Occupancy rates for office buildings in the district are among the highest in the region at about 97 percent, according to the report. Developers, of course, have noticed and new office buildings are under construction or in the works.

Mike Lyons

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Philadelphia Marathon is this Sunday: street closures, detours, cheer zones

Posted on 20 November 2015


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The annual Philadelphia Marathon will be held this Sunday (Nov. 22), starting at 7 a.m. at 22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The City and SEPTA announced street closure and detour information ahead of the marathon. Street closures and detours will affect parts of Center City along the course of the marathon (see map), and also some areas in West Philadelphia. Also, check out the information out below on cheer zones in University City/West Philadelphia. Good luck to all West Philly folks who are running this Sunday!

The following streets will be affected across the city on November 22:

• 18th Street, from Arch to Callowhill streets
• 19th Street, from Arch to Callowhill streets
• 20th Street, from Arch to Callowhill streets
• 21st Street, from Spring Garden to Arch streets
• 22nd Street, from Spring Garden to Arch streets
• Benjamin Franklin Parkway, from 22nd to 16th streets
• Arch Street, between 16th to 4th streets
• 4th Street Arch to Vine streets
• Race Street, from 4th Street to Columbus Boulevard  Continue Reading

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Career Fair for youth this Friday at The Enterprise Center

Posted on 19 November 2015

The Next Level Expo, a career and opportunities fair, will take place at The Enterprise Center (4548 Market St.) this Friday, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Geared for youth ages 18-25, The Next Level Expo will serve as a one-stop-shop for attendees eager to learn more about career options available to them.


Photo courtesy Episcopal Community Services.

Traditionally, expos focus primarily on employment or education, but The Next Level Expo focuses on all options available to youth so they can determine – on their own – what their next steps in life should be. Four workshops will be offered during the expo: How to Obtain Financial Aid for College, Time Management Tips and Strategies, How to Dress for Success, and Accessing Alternative Pathways to Higher Education.

The expo will feature employers, post-secondary institutions, and apprenticeship programs including: ShopRite, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Fire Department, Orleans Technical College, Childcare Careers, Jefferson University Hospital, Community College of Philadelphia, Saxby’s Coffee, Elwyn, People’s Emergency Center, OIC of Philadelphia, Integrity Staffing, PA Army National Guard, Sodexo, FedEx, and more.

The Next Level Expo is organized by Episcopal Community Services’ R.I.S.E. Initiative. The event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, click here.

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‘What can neighbors do to get this intersection looked at for improvements?’ (updated)

Posted on 19 November 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.01.14 AM

UPDATE (11/19/2015): Many people in the neighborhood posted their suggestions on how to improve the tricky intersection of 46th Street and Baltimore and Cedar Avenues after our post last month (see the original post and reader comments below). Reader David Wengert emailed us his proposal on how to make the intersection safer, along with illustrations:

“I have long wanted to change the physical landscape and traffic pattern at 46th & Baltimore & Cedar, so when I saw the topic appear on West Philly Local in October, I decided to create a picture to visualize my idea for change. It involves three major changes that I believe would improve both walkability and drivability. First, you eliminate the Cedar Ave spur between Baltimore & 46th. This triangle could be transformed into a little park or parklet, and the Baltimore Ave sidewalk would continue along Baltimore Ave all the way to the corner.

Second, you bring 46th St southbound traffic all the way up to the intersection with Baltimore, instead of stopping traffic behind Cedar Ave. This means removing Cedar Ave from the intersection entirely.  Continue Reading

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Renovated church building at 47th and Kingsessing to welcome first tenants in early 2016

Posted on 18 November 2015

Church 1Renovations are continuing and the first three tenants are already lined up for the Frank Furness-designed church at 47th and Kingsessing that was saved from the wrecking ball last year.

Property owner Guy Laren confirmed by e-mail this week that two preschools, Little Learners and Children’s Community School, are still among the likely tenants for the commercial space at the former St. Peter’s Church of Christ complex, which includes a three-story parish house (formerly a school) and a main sanctuary. The church was saved from demolition in late 2014.

“There are so many moving parts to an old building like this that giving you absolute move-in dates would be difficult, but both pre-schools would move in at the earliest sometime early next year,” said Laren, whose West Philly property management company, Constellar Corporation, purchased the property in December 2014.

The Soapbox Community Print Shop recently announced it would be moving into a 4,500-square-foot space in the complex and has started a fundraising campaign to help offset the costs of renovations.

Guy said that he’s also working with an artist group to have some collaborative space in the complex as well.

“After all these are comfortably moved in we will consider other possibilities for the remaining space,” Laren said. Laren’s initial plans for the remaining space in the sanctuary included residential apartments or some other commercial use. We’ll keep you posted when we have more updates.

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Driver charged after car passes stopped trolley, kills woman crossing street at 54th and Woodland

Posted on 18 November 2015

Murder and DUI charges were filed on Tuesday against the driver who struck and killed a woman as she crossed the street at 54th and Woodland on Monday morning. Police say 23-year-old Malachi Armstrong was driving eastbound on Woodland Avenue at about 9:15 a.m. when he allegedly sped through a red light and attempted to pass a stopped Route 11 Trolley.

While he was passing the trolley on the left he struck and killed the woman, identified as 38-year-old mother of three Miriam Wilson, who was crossing the street (it was reported initially that she was attempting to catch the trolley). She was pronounced dead on the scene.

After striking the woman Armstrong lost control of his car, a 2015 Nissan Altima, crossed over into oncoming traffic, collided head-on with another vehicle and then hit a pole, according to reports. The driver of the vehicle that Armstrong struck head-on was hospitalized with injuries to his legs.

Armstrong was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI, according to court documents. At his arraignment, bail was denied.

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‘Building Brotherhood’ mural unveiled at 40th and Chestnut

Posted on 17 November 2015


A new mural was unveiled on Monday at 40th and Chestnut, a result of a year-long collaboration between the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). The mural art project, titled Building Brotherhood: Engaging Males of Color, was designed to inspire males of color to build supportive relationships with one another as a mechanism for coping with – and overcoming – the hardships they face in society, often in regards to accessing education, jobs, and behavioral health services.

Building Brotherhood is the 27th mural created under the Porch Light program, an ongoing collaboration between the Mural Arts Program and DBHIDS. Porch Light public art projects, which focus specifically on mental health, are an expression of community resilience and a vehicle of personal and community healing. A new virtual tour of the Porch Light murals can be found here:


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Zebras on the loose in West Philly!

Posted on 15 November 2015

UPDATE: The zebras are in custody. According to reports, one was captured in Lower Merion.

Police are in pursuit of a couple of zebras that escaped from a circus near 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue Sunday afternoon. The zebras slipped out of the circus at about 2 p.m., according to police. Motorists and pedestrians have photographed and videoed the zebras running through the parking lot near the Shoprite center near 52nd and Jefferson. The zebras escaped from the Universoul Circus, which is set up near the Mann Music Center. Last week the circus made headlines when a trapeze artist bounced out of a safety net and into the crowd. He was hospitalized.

Here are some sightings:


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UCD Crime Report: Burglaries on the rise in August-October

Posted on 13 November 2015


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The University City District has released its monthly crime update, which provides statistics on serious crimes in the area, such as aggravated assaults, robberies (armed and not armed), and burglaries. In October, 39 robberies, aggravated assaults and residential burglaries were reported in the area, and nine arrests were made in these cases, according to the report.

The report shows a sharp increase in residential burglaries – from five in July to over 20 per month in the period from August to October. This is also higher than in the fall of 2012-2014 when from 10 to 15 burglaries were reported monthly. The map shows an increase in burglaries in the western edge of the district.

Some good news is that after last month’s arrest of a suspect in connection with a string of burglaries in Powelton Village, crime numbers have fallen dramatically in that area.

Here are also useful tips from UCD on protecting your porch or residence:  Continue Reading

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SPCA presents free workshops for pet owners this Saturday

Posted on 13 November 2015

CatpictureThe Pennsylvania SPCA is coming to West Philly! On Saturday, Nov. 14, pet owners are invited to the Dornsife Center (3509 Spring Garden St.) to learn more about their pets’ needs, body language, and how to problem-solve tough behavior. SPCA will present two workshops: Cat Workshop is from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., and Dog Workshop is from 12-1 p.m. Both workshops are free and open to the public. In addition, workshop participants will be entered into a drawing to win a free basket of dog or cat supplies and toys.

The workshops will be held in the School Building, Room S108. For more information, call (267) 463-2329 or email:

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Newly-remodeled Bikram Yoga studio at 42nd and Chestnut to reopen this weekend

Posted on 13 November 2015


Bikram Yoga West Philly opens this weekend at 42nd and Chestnut.

The Bikram Yoga studio at 4145 Chestnut St. is reopening this weekend after being closed for remodeling since late September. A full schedule of 26 hot yoga classes a week is starting this weekend, according to studio co-owner Bob Casey, with the first class being held at 9 a.m. this Saturday.

As was reported last month, the studio has a new management team and changed its name from Bikram Yoga University City to Bikram Yoga West Philly. Here’s what Casey, the only person who is still there from the original team (Bikram Yoga University City opened in 2012), says about the new team and their decision to change the name of the studio:

“Bikram West Philly is not just under new management but also new ownership. Leo Eisenstein, new co-director, is a Philadelphia native (his father graduated from West Catholic High); he lives in Philly… and he is thrilled to be part of owning and operating a business in West Philadelphia… not just University City but all of West Philly.”

Casey says that his new partner feels that the studio can be more than just a yoga “studio”; it can be a yoga community center for all of West Philly. Eisenstein is excited about the partnerships they can form with civic associations as well as businesses.

Speaking of similarities and differences between Bikram University City and Bikram West Philly, Casey adds that Bikram West Philly will be a yoga studio in the same way Bikram Yoga University City was when it first opened, but Bikram will be the only style of yoga that will be offered there. “Other than that I would say that almost everything will be different.”

For information about the grand opening weekend class schedule, visit the Bikram Yoga West Philly Facebook page.

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Ten Months of Art and Community Service: Neighborhood Time Exchange resident artists’ final exhibit opens Friday, Nov. 13

Posted on 12 November 2015


For 10 months, selected local and international artists have worked in a newly-renovated storefront space at 4017 Lancaster Avenue as part of the “Neighborhood Time Exchange” Artists-in-Residence Program. This Friday, the artists along with the Mural Arts Program, The People’s Emergency Center, Broken City Lab, and The City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy will present their culminating exhibition, Reciprocity: Exhibiting Moments and Momentum from Neighborhood Time Exchange.

Three cohorts of artists participated in residencies between January and September 2015 and worked for one to three months: The first cohort of residencies, which took place between January and March, included artists Ian Sampson, Betty Leacraft, Kandis Friesen, and Philippe Leonard. The second cohort, between April and June, included Macon Reed, Camae Dennis and Rasheedah Phillips, Matt Neff, and Sasha Phyars-Burgess. The third included Pato Hebert, Lucy Pistilli and Brian Bazemore, John Phillips, Mark Clare, and Meredith Degyanski.  Continue Reading

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Mary Pitts-Devine, who miraculously survived being shot 8 times by neighbor in March, has died

Posted on 12 November 2015

016c6d3We’re sad to report that Mary Pitts-Devine, the woman who survived a violent assault in March when she was shot eight times by her neighbor at her residence near 46th and Spruce, passed away on Tuesday.

Pitts-Devine, 47, had undergone multiple surgeries since the attack, the most recent less than a month ago. She died from complications related to her injuries and preexisting medical conditions, according to a report by who spoke to Pitts-Devine’s brother Eric Pitts. Pitts-Devine, a LaSalle grad, entrepreneur, social worker, and writer, was also a breast cancer and kidney transplant survivor.

“Mary has passed. May she rest in peace. Thank you for all your support and prayers. She will no longer be in pain. A true soldier,” Pitts wrote on the online fundraising page he had set up for his sister back in March.

According to information posted on the page, Pitts-Devine’s homegoing service, “Celebration for Mary R. Pitts,” will be this Friday, Nov. 13 at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 3500 Baring Street. Viewing is at 5 p.m.

The burial will be on Saturday morning, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. at Merion Memorial Park, 59 Rock Hill Rd, Bala Cynwyd.

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Help clean and beautify your neighborhood park this Saturday

Posted on 11 November 2015

LoveyourparkNovThere’s a chance to help your neighborhood park on the “Love Your Park” fall service day this Saturday (Nov. 14). Over 75 Philly parks need help, including many in West Philadelphia.

Friends of Clark Park is hosting a clean-up and beautification day in the park from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., and seeking community volunteers who can join them. Meeting is at 9 a.m. by the shed (45th and Regent). Please bring a trowel (if you have one).

If you live in Cedar Park, consider volunteering from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in your neighborhood park. Community members are invited to celebrate fall and spend the day working alongside friends and neighbors to help clean and green Cedar Park. Your work may include raking leaves, putting the gardens to bed, planting perennials and bulbs and doing general clean up. All ages are welcome, and tools will be supplied. To RSVP, please email  Continue Reading

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U City apartment barons talk to Spruce Hill residents about renovations, retail

Posted on 11 November 2015

SHCA meeting

Matt Pestronk of Post Brothers speaking at the annual Spruce Hill Community Association meeting. (Photo West Philly Local)

Matt Pestronk did something at last night’s annual Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) member meeting that property developers rarely do anymore in the neighborhood. He voluntarily showed up and answered questions from residents about the reasons his company, Post Brothers, plans to spend some $250 million on apartment buildings, including the newly purchased Garden Court Plaza building at 47th and Pine.

Pestronk, who owns the company with his brother Michael, took questions ranging from whether they would allow pets in their buildings (an emphatic “yes” on that one) to whether Post Brothers would convert any rental units into condos and put them up for sale (probably not).

The company has acquired several buildings in recent years including: 4311 Spruce Street; The Netherlands at 4300 Chestnut; Chester Plaza at Farragut and Chester; Chester Hall at 4205 Chester; Hamiltion Court at 3800 Chestnut; and Garden Court Plaza. Altogether, they have accrued about 550 units.  Continue Reading

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The Soapbox Community Print Shop to move to a 4,500-square-foot space at 4700 Kingsessing

Posted on 11 November 2015


The Soapbox has been operating in this row house since 2011 (photo from

There are some exciting developments at The Soapbox, West Philly’s own community print shop and zine library. The studio, which has been operating in a row house on the 700 block of S. 51st Street (pictured right) since 2011, will be moving soon to a new, 4,500-square-foot space in the newly renovated Frank Furness-designed church at 4700 Kingsessing.

As you may know, the old church building was saved from demolition last year and was being converted into commercial space, which will also house schools (more information about this is coming soon).

A lease was signed for the basement of the Parish House, a high-ceilinged space with four-foot windows at ceiling level, according to The Soapbox president and co-founder Mary Tasillo. The new studio will be fully equipped with historic and contemporary printing equipment, the city’s largest independent zine library, and expanded community programming.

“The Soapbox team is incredibly excited by the potential presented in this move… Our vision for The Soapbox can fully come to fruition in the new, larger space: The Soapbox Community Print Shop and Zine Library will be a space where many people can feel a sense of ownership and investment,” Tasillo says. “Above all, we are excited about this move because this enables The Soapbox to continue our mission-driven work by offering a more accessible and more usable space to our community.”  Continue Reading

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