Mission First Housing Group withdraws application for affordable housing at 4534-36 Spruce St, plans to sell building

Posted on 07 July 2015


Former Transition To Independent Living Center building at 4534 Spruce St.

Following up on Monday’s post about Mission First Housing Group’s decision to withdraw their application for zoning variance at 4534-36 Spruce St, which would allow them to build a four-story 24-unit affordable housing structure, we have some more information from Mission First and Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA).

Mission First had to withdraw their application because the “project was not allocated funding in the 2015 round,” according to Mission First’s spokesperson Becky Lang Staffieri. The project was contingent on state funding. Staffieri could not provide more details about the future of the property, but said that Mission First still owns it and are weighing their options on next steps.

According to SHCA Zoning Chair Barry Grossbach, opposition from at least one immediate neighbor may have contributed to the decision to withdraw the application. Mission First “sensed that the immediate neighbor was prepared to challenge any positive ruling by the zoning board in court, and they were not willing to withstand a protracted process that could stretch for months or longer,” Grossbach said.  Continue Reading

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Affordable housing project at 46th and Spruce to go (again) before Zoning Board this Tuesday (updated)

Posted on 06 July 2015


4534-36 Spruce St.

UPDATE (3:05 p.m.): We have just heard from Mission First that they withdrew their application for zoning variance at 4534 Spruce St. They have also notified Spruce Hill Community Association about their decision, according to the organization’s spokesperson Becky Lang Staffieri. Stay tuned for more information.

Mission First Housing Group’s affordable housing proposal at 4534-36 Spruce St is scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment this Tuesday (July 7). The hearing was originally scheduled for April 28, but was postponed. The proposal is for a four-story 24-unit building aimed at low-income single residents. Public input is encouraged. Click here to read our original story about this project, which will replace a deteriorating Transition To Independent Living Center building damaged by fire in 2011.

Also on Tuesday, there will be another attempt to consider the proposal for a live action puzzle game venue at 4751 Woodland Avenue. The hearing for this project was also rescheduled from an earlier date. The new venue is proposed for the warehouse currently at this location, which requires a special permit from the city.

Hearings are scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. The Zoning Board of Adjustment is located at 1515 Arch Street, 18th Floor.

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SEPTA July 4 service changes

Posted on 03 July 2015

On Saturday, July 4, SEPTA Transit Service including bus, trolley and subway service will operate on a Sunday schedule. Regional Rail will operate on a Saturday schedule on Friday, July 3 and Saturday, July 4. On Saturday, additional service will be added on many lines to accommodate travelers heading to and from events in Center City. Planned service changes by mode include:

Market Frankford and Broad Street Lines

Additional trains will be added on each line beginning at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, providing service every 5 to 7 minutes through 1:00 a.m. on Sunday. Regular weekend “Night Owl” rail service will be in effect throughout the holiday weekend, providing trains every 20 minutes until 5:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 15th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line and City Hall and Race-Vine Stations on the Broad Street Line provide easy walking access to and from the Parkway.


Additional trips on Routes 10, 11, 13, 34 and 36 will be added on Saturday evening headed to Center City before the concert and fireworks show on the Parkway, with additional trolleys departing Center City on each line after Parkway events end.  Continue Reading

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Meet new PEC president, Kathy Desmond

Posted on 02 July 2015

Over the past 42 years, The People’s Emergency Center has served the West Powelton, Mantua, Belmont, Mill Creek and Saunders Park neighborhoods to provide comprehensive support services to homeless women and their children with temporary and permanent housing and services. The non-profit organization has invested over $57 million in quality-of-life improvements for West Philadelphia residents.


Kathy Desmond

The PEC board of directors appointed Kathy Desmond as the new president of the organization effective July 1. Desmond has been with People’s Emergency Center for two years but has previously served families in the area as CEO of BestNest for 14 years. She holds a Master of Social Work from Temple University. Desmond’s first order of business will include an analysis of where the organization stands and refining PEC’s strategic plan, to better serve the neighborhoods in the area.

We had the opportunity to speak with Desmond who shed light on what she intends to do in her new role.

– Do you have any ties to the areas that PEC serves?

I have worked for PEC for two years in several capacities in the social services department, focusing on serving mothers and children experiencing homelessness. In my previous role as CEO of Best Nest, a foster care support services agency, I did work with families in the neighborhoods served by PEC. I am excited to be in this new capacity at PEC, where I can impact all of PEC’s programs so that we can continue to nurture families, strengthen neighborhoods and drive change.

– How do you plan to improve services to the communities you serve?

PEC’s role in the community is to be an amplifier to the strengths and voices already present in Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park and West Powelton. PEC’s activities are currently guided by the resident-driven “Make Your Mark” neighborhood plan. We are particularly pleased that the planning process engaged and brought together the very diverse communities we serve, which we couldn’t have achieved with the leadership of the civic groups and residents in each of our neighborhoods, the creative implementation from Interface Studios, and financial support from Wells Fargo Regional Community Foundation.

Going forward, we are pledged to continue to work with our neighbors to build on the community’s assets and to amplify their voices to the institutions, agencies and market forces that impact where they live. As we develop PEC’s next strategic plan, our community development work will continue to respond to the issues raised in the “Make Your Mark” neighborhood plan, such as quality of life, education and increasing affordable housing stock. PEC’s work in these areas so far include the Bigham Leatherberry Wise Place development, the LISC-supported Financial Opportunities Center, and working with the Philadelphia Promise Zone collaborative.

Continue Reading

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The Nesting House children’s boutique to open new location at 45th and Baltimore

Posted on 30 June 2015


Photo from The Nesting House’s Facebook page.

The Nesting House, a local boutique that offers a mix of gently used kids clothes and items (ages newborn to 8), as well as new parenting items, baby registry and toys, will be opening a location soon at 4501 Baltimore Ave.

The first Nesting House store opened its doors five years ago in  Mt. Airy and there was a need to accommodate its growing customer base. West Philly has been in the running since the first expansion of the store (a second location opened in Collingswood, NJ two years ago after a spirited vote online as to where the next location should be), and the owners didn’t need another vote to make their decision.

“With Clark Park, Penn Alexander School, Milk and Honey, and Mariposa co-op nearby, the area boasts one of the ingredients for the store’s success – a neighborhood that creates a one stop shopping experience for busy families looking to support local businesses,” owners Jen and Chris Kinka said.  Continue Reading

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Shots fired at moving vehicle near 49th and Spruce; driver critically wounded (updated)

Posted on 28 June 2015

UPDATE (Monday, June 29, 10:15 a.m.): It appears that the shooting was not random, according to police, who said that the victim was involved in criminal activity. “200[th block of] S. St Bernard just looks like where he decided to do a deal that led to this,” said a police source.

UPDATE (11:25 p.m.): A man is in critical condition after he was shot inside a car he was driving on the 200 block of S. Saint Bernard Street, according to police. The car was going northbound on S. St Bernard when an unknown male exited from an alley and fired one or two shots in its direction, a woman who was a passenger in the car told police. The driver was shot in his left arm, but continued driving until he crashed the vehicle at 51st and Locust. He was taken to Presbyterian Hospital, according to police.

Police said earlier that the shooting took place on Sunday night, around 9:45 p.m.. West Philly Local readers reported heavy police presence near 49th and Spruce Streets and 51st and Locust.

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Rain cancels tonight’s 40th St Summer Series concert

Posted on 27 June 2015

Tonight’s 40th Street Summer Series performance by BalletX and drum group Kyo Daiko has been postponed because of the rainy weather, University City District (UCD) has announced. UCD is working with The Rotunda and the artists to attempt to reschedule the event. We’ll let you know if there is a new date.


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Local business owner attacked in attempted robbery at 49th and Baltimore

Posted on 26 June 2015

The owner of a Baltimore Avenue business was attacked overnight in an attempted gunpoint robbery, according to police. The attack took place around 12:30 a.m. on Friday when 65-year-old Thomas Lee, owner of One Stop Fresh Deli at the corner of 49th and Baltimore, was taking out the trash behind the store and was approached by an unknown young male who pointed a gun at his head and demanded money.

The man also tried to push his way into the back door of the store, according to a police report, but Lee resisted and tried to fight him off. A struggle ensued with both men rolling on the ground, which drew attention from passersby, according to police. The attacker fled without taking anything. Lee sustained minor injuries in the attack, police said. The description of the suspect is very vague.  Continue Reading

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Report: 52nd and Baltimore, 40th and Market among most dangerous intersections in city

Posted on 25 June 2015


Click to enlarge.

Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of pedestrian traffic fatalities in the United States among large cities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data. The Bicycle Coalition of the Greater Philadelphia has just released the official Vision Zero report, which contains statistics on the safety of Philadelphia streets and a series of policies that aims to bring traffic deaths and injuries down to zero for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. According to the report, traffic crashes kill about 100 people per year citywide and cost $1 billion in damages and economic activity.

The report breaks down traffic crashes and statistics by neighborhood (see map). In West Philadelphia, the report shows that 52nd Street, between Baltimore Avenue and Sansom Street is the fourth-worst corridor for pedestrian-involved crashes in the city. Also, 40th and Market Streets, where many people are crossing the street to use the Market-Frankford Line, is in the top 10 of crash sites in the city. The intersection saw 15 pedestrian-involved crashes between 2009 and 2013.

Vision Zero policies have already been successfully adopted in other U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Vision Zero Philadelphia proposes partnerships among various municipal agencies, and includes recommendations for safer road design, traffic calming strategies, and suggestions for funding sources. The document also stresses the importance of cultural shift and public education campaigns. Both of Philadelphia’s current mayoral candidates support the policies.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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Malcolm X Park Jazz series underway. Next show is on Thursday, June 25

Posted on 24 June 2015


Jazz vocalist Barbara Walker will perform at Malcolm X. Park on July 9. (Photo from

Recently we let you know about the Cedar Park Summer Jazz series happening every Friday night, and here’s information on the annual West Philadelphia Jazz Heritage Series held at Malcolm X. Park (52nd and Pine). Concerts are set for every other Thursday from May 28 to Sept. 17, starting at 7 p.m. (weather permitting). This summer, the popular concert series returns for its 15th season! All concerts are free and open to the public.

Here’s the concert schedule and line up of performers.

June 25 – The Budesa Brothers
July 9 – The Barbara Walker Story (vocalist)
July 23 – Shirley Lites (vocalist)
Aug. 6 – Geo. Barron (tenor sax), Janet Barron (vocalist)
Aug. 20 – Lawrence Jones (tenor sax)
Sept. 3 – Michelle Beckham
Sept. 17 – The Nate Murray Band

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“Mystical” sunset: Post-thunderstorm sky and Northern Lights

Posted on 24 June 2015

If you missed the incredibly colorful sunset last night check out the photos below. What we witnessed is rare mammatus clouds (sagging pouch-like structures, an indication that a severe thunderstorm has passed) lit up by the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis). The color of the sky changed from yellow to orange to red to purple within minutes.



“People throughout the city stopped to witness the incredible sunset post storm. Cars were pulled over. Photographers were lined up the Walnut Street Bridge. Pedestrians on camera phones were snapping the incredible evening hues. The best way to describe the sunset? Mystical.” – Photo and quote by reader Veronica Alvarez

By the way, there will be another chance to see the Northern Lights tonight. Here‘s some more information.

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Severe thunderstorm passes through; huge tree down on Osage Ave

Posted on 23 June 2015


How is everyone doing after the summer’s first severe thunderstorm? Reports are coming in of power outages in some parts of the city and outside of it, but so far no such reports in our area. SEPTA suspended service on all regional rails because of downed wires and tree limbs. The Route 10 Trolley was temporarily suspended due to a downed tree that blocked the rails.

This huge tree fell on the 4600 block of Osage Avenue within five minutes after the storm started, according to West Philly Local reader reports. The tree narrowly missed houses and parked cars, and luckily no one was hurt. A reader named Lisa, who took the photo, says there is some damage to her garden.

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Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll returns this Thursday. Check out the map

Posted on 23 June 2015

Baltimore-Avenue-Dollar-Stroll-2015-5x7-2A great neighborhood event, the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, returns on Thursday, June 25 with $1 bargains, live music and entertainment. Over 30 neighborhood businesses will be on hand, selling everything for a buck – food and drinks, gift certificates and theater tickets, art prints, plant starts and more – along Baltimore Avenue, between 43rd and 51st streets. The event will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The map of business locations and their offers is below. Expect long lines by Desi Village (samosas & mango lassis!), Milk & Honey (ice cream!), Dock Street (beer!), Mariposa Food Co-op (banana whips!) and some other locations. Take your kid to Redcap’s Corner to pick up some $1 Pokemon cards and mini figures. And make sure to stop by and say hello to newcomers, such as Café Renata who will be serving delicious iced coffee, 8 Limbs Academy who will be offering short kickboxing lessons, and Spirited Tattooing who will be selling stickers and art prints.  Continue Reading

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Ramadan restaurant closings, hours

Posted on 23 June 2015


Muslims all over the world are observing the month of Ramadan, which began on the evening of June 17. Here’s a reminder that in observance of Ramadan, some local businesses are closed or have special hours.

Saad’s Halal Restaurant on 45th and Walnut has posted a sign (pictured) that they will be closed until Monday, July 20. Manakeesh Cafe and Bakery across the street from Saad’s will be open at 7:30 p.m. for pick-ups and at sunset for dining in.

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June 20 – Day to celebrate community gardens

Posted on 19 June 2015


Warrington Community Garden (photo from

June 20th is the second annual Community Gardens Day in Philadelphia. The celebration is sponsored by the Neighborhood Gardens Trust (NGT), an organization that helps preserve community gardens. Thanks to NGT’s work, Community Gardens Day was recently officially recognized by the city.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, 45 community gardens throughout the city will host free activities, such as tours, demos, work days, family activities, and other special programs. This is a great chance to visit your neighborhood garden, show your support and participate in activities (click here to find a community garden near you).

A celebration will also be happening tomorrow at Warrington Garden at 4731 Warrington Ave. Guests are welcome to explore this green oasis and take part in the following activities: tours of the garden, scavenger hunt for children, photo display from the garden’s archives, herb identification, medicinal plant walkthrough (at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.), and an art project organized by the University City Arts League (from 1 to 3 p.m.). Light refreshments will be served.

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Incarcerated fathers reconnecting with their children: A mural unveiling on Saturday

Posted on 19 June 2015


The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program will unveil a new mural in Southwest Philly on Saturday that honors the commitment of incarcerated fathers to their children.

The mural, entitled Fathers and Children Together (FACT), will be installed at 55th and Woodland on Saturday (the day before Fathers’ Day) at 11 a.m.. The public is invited and light refreshments will be served.

The mural is the result of collaboration between the Mural Arts Program, the United Community Action Network at SCI Graterford, the maximum security state prison outside of Philadelphia, and the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program. The FACT program helps incarcerated fathers reconnect with children in the hopes that they can become positive role models and encourage their kids to choose education over incarceration. During FACT session inside Graterford, kids are able to interact one-on-one with their fathers.

About a third of the mural, which is painted on parachute cloth, was painted inside Graterford. Christy Bottie, who has led art workshops in the FACT program, is working on the rest of the mural with lead muralist Ernel Martinez.

Drawings created together by fathers and their children during FACT sessions make up the border of the mural.

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Free performances at Curio about school shootings ask: ‘Why?’

Posted on 19 June 2015

Here are a few chances to visit Curio Theatre before it closes its doors until the next season. The local theater company will present a series of free performances this weekend and on Monday, June 22.


CuriosiTeens! (Photo courtesy of Curio Theatre Company)

Curio’s young company, CuriosiTeens! will present three performances of Bang Bang You’re Dead, a powerful drama written by William Mastrosimone in the wake of the school shootings of the late 1990s. The goal of this production is to search out and answer a very complex question: “Why?”. The first performance is tonight at 7 p.m., and there will be two shows tomorrow (Saturday, June 20) – at 2 and 7 p.m. All shows are on Curio’s Main Stage (48th and Baltimore). Please call 215-525-1350 or email to reserve your tickets.

On Monday, Curio’s 2015 New Play reading series concludes with Antagonyms written by Rachel Gluck. “When a man returns to his home city after fifteen years of running, four people must struggle to maintain control over their lives, and keep the past in the past.” The play is directed by Jack Tamburri. The cast features Isa St. Clair, Trevor Fayle, Colleen Hughes and Andrew J. Carroll. The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. on Curio’s Corner Stage, 48th and Baltimore Ave.

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University Avenue Bridge to be closed for maintenance this Saturday

Posted on 19 June 2015

UniversityAvenueBridgeThe University Avenue drawbridge over the Schuylkill River will be temporarily closed tomorrow for maintenance. The following temporary restrictions are scheduled to be in effect from approximately 7  a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 20.

• The University Avenue drawbridge will be closed to all traffic. No detours will be posted for this short duration closure. Alternate Schuylkill River crossings include Gray’s Ferry Avenue to the south of the project, the Schuylkill Expressway, and South Street Bridge to the north.
• Northbound University Avenue traffic closures will begin at Gray’s Ferry Avenue.
• Southbound Schuylkill Expressway traffic will be stopped at the westbound entrance.
• The eastbound Schuylkill Expressway ramp will remain open, however existing traffic on the ramp will not be permitted to travel southbound on University Avenue.
• Pedestrian and bicycle traffic will not be allowed.

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Spruce Hill or Garden Court? Neighborhood boundaries dilemma

Posted on 18 June 2015

Reader Jared Brimfield, who lives on the 200 block of Melville, sent us the following email:


Garden Court boundaries map.

I was reading your article today that showed the Garden Court neighborhood map. I’m a little confused because there seems to be some overlap between Garden Court and Spruce Hill. Below is the link to the SHCA map, which shows the west line of the neighborhood at 46th St. The GCCA map show[s] the east neighborhood boundary between 44th and 45th.
I have always identified my street (200 block of Melville) as Spruce Hill, but maybe I’m wrong.
Do you have any idea which is correct?

Here is the article Jared was referring to. He also sent his question to both community associations and kindly shared their replies with us.


Spruce Hill map.

There is indeed an overlap between Spruce Hill and Garden Court. According to Garden Court Community Association’s (GCCA) website, 45th street is considered their eastern boundary. Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) identifies 46th street as their western boundary. So, what neighborhood does one belong to if they live between 45th and 46th streets and between Locust and Baltimore/Cedar?

“The simple answer: both! Several of the community associations in W[est] Philly overlap (for a block or two) at the boundaries. And, it is completely fine to belong to one or more than one association,” says Jamie Gauthier, GCCA president.

“I agree. It is your choice,” said SHCA Board member Rich Guffanti.

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