Archive | February, 2014

West Philly Kindergarten Open Houses in March 2014 (update: Penn Alexander School kindergarten open house date correction)

February 28, 2014

Here’s a list of kindergarten open houses scheduled at local elementary schools in March. The list has been compiled by the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood SchoolsDate correction: The kindergarten open house at Penn Alexander School will take place on March 4 (not March 3).

A. D. Harrington School
5300-34 Baltimore Ave., 19143
(215) 471-2914
Open House: March 4, 9:00-9:54 a.m.
Note: Please come to main building (address above)

Alain Locke School
4550 Haverford Ave., 19139
(215) 823-8202
Open House: March 4, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

B. B. Comegys School
5100 Greenway Ave., 19143
(215) 727-2162
Open House: March 4, Call the school for exact time

Henry C. Lea School
4700 Locust St., 19139
(215) 471-2915
Open House: March 4, 8:45 – 10:00 a.m.

Martha Washington Academics
766 N. 44th St., 19104
(215) 823-8203
Open House: March 4, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Morton McMichael School
3543 Fairmount Ave., 19104
(215) 823-8272
Open House: March 4, Call the school for exact time

Penn Alexander School
4209 Spruce St., 19104
(215) 823-5465
Open House: March 3 March 4, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Samuel B. Huey School
5200 Pine St., 19143
(215) 471-2901
Facebook page
Open House: Participation unconfirmed, call the school

Samuel Powel School
301 N. 36th St., 19104
(215) 823-8201
Open House: March 4, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

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Review: Shaban Kabab & Curry

February 28, 2014


The lamb biryani (Photo by Annamarya Scaccia / West Philly Local)

When I first reported on the opening of Shaban Kabab & Curry (4145 Chestnut Street), I was excited by the prospect of having a new South Asian restaurant in the area. After all, as someone who enjoys cuisine from the region, I was looking forward to tasting Pakistani food—Shaban’s specialty—for the first time.

So on Monday night, I made my way through the blistering cold to the corner of 42nd and Chestnut Streets, where Shaban Kabab & Curry set up shop. Once inside, owner Mohammad Sajad greeted me with a warm cup of ginger and milk as we sat at the window bar. The dining area is small, but cozy, made up of polished aluminum furniture, grey and bright green walls, and a wood panel wall fixture that immediately pulls your focus. While Shaban’s cuisine may be traditional, there’s definitely nothing traditional about the design of the restaurant.

Sajad and I make small talk while I wait for the dishes he’s prepared for me to taste. Since opening, he tells me, Shaban has been really busy, with Thursdays through Sundays being the busiest days. (The restaurant was empty on Monday evening save for one customer, although online orders seemed to have been racking up.) And the feedback he’s received has been mostly positive—”People just love [the food],” he says.  Continue Reading

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‘Native American Voices’ exhibit opening this Saturday at Penn Museum

February 28, 2014

22 Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape people are an active tribe from Southern New Jersey, where they hold state recognition. Hear stories of their challenges and successes as they preserve their culture in Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now. (Photos courtesy Penn Museum)

The goal of a new, large exhibition opening at the Penn Museum (3260 South Street) on Saturday, March 1 is to help us leave preconceptions about Native Americans behind. “Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now” is a rich and highly interactive show that features a wide range of contemporary Native North Americans – artists, activists, journalists, scholars, and community leaders. They speak out in video and in audio, sharing stories, poetry, and short essays on issues that matter to them today: identity, political sovereignty, religious freedom and sacred places, language, celebrations, art, and cultural continuity.

Besides a central introductory video, touch screen towers and multimedia stations are placed throughout the gallery, allowing visitors to encounter Native American perspectives on key themes.

MocassinsThe exhibition will have on display over 250 Native American objects—ranging from 11,000-year-old Clovis projectile points to contemporary art, which will help to tell the stories of Native American peoples today, their aspirations, histories, art, concerns, and continuing cultural traditions.

The exhibition opening will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will include Native American music and dance, presentations by Native American community leaders from around the country, as well as arts, crafts, workshops and children’s activities—all free with Museum admission.

For more information, visit this page.

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The City School unveils plans to build out new entranceway; more from last night’s Spruce Hill zoning meeting

February 27, 2014

Representatives from The City School explaining their plans to SHCA (Photo by Annamarya Scaccia / West Philly Local)

Representatives from The City School explain their plans to SHCA (Photo by Annamarya Scaccia / West Philly Local)

Last night, representatives from The City School unveiled plans to redesign the entry way of its Spruce Hill campus at 4115 Baltimore Avenue, building what they called “a more identifiable, uniformed” entrance that would better introduce the Christian academy in the neighborhood.

The Spruce Hill Community Association Zoning Committee considered The City School’s plans during a routine meeting Wednesday night. According to school representatives, the Spruce Hill campus redesign will include construction of a new facade that will build out the elementary school’s entrance right to the sidewalk. Currently, the frontage of the Baltimore Avenue site has multiple entrances for varying purposes, often confusing guests coming to the academy. Creating a singular front entrance, they claim, would rectify this issue.

As outlined at the meeting, the project would introduce a cedar wood terrace with iron wood brackets displaying the academy’s name, new black wrought iron gates, an art mosaic, and updated planting in the frontage.

The representatives did admit the redesign runs into property line issues, so once they hear the SHCA Zoning Committee’s feedback, they plan to seek a zoning variance within the next month in order to move the project forward. Jake Becker, head of The City School, said during the meeting that they hope to start construction in July and have it complete before the 2014 – 2015 school year starts in September.

Formerly known as the Spruce Hill Christian School, The City School’s Spruce Hill campus is one of three schools run by academy, which includes a middle school at 4501 Walnut Street and the former City Center Academy high school at 315 South 17th Street. In 2006, Spruce Hill Christian School merged with City Center Academy, but the unified school continued to operate under two names until last year.

“Being committed to the neighborhood is important to us,” Becker said at the meeting. “While we changed our name, we’re committed to being a good neighbor.”

During Wednesday night’s meeting, the SHCA Zoning Committee also heard from the owner of 517 South 41st Street regarding her application to convert her three two-bedroom apartments into six one-bedroom units, which she said she would market to graduate students and young professionals. In order to go forward, the owner, who bought the property in October, would have to seek a zoning change for the property, which is currently zoned as three-family dwelling. (The owner was already granted an interior alteration permit in January for renovations on the existing apartments.)

The plans received a lot of pushback from the Committee and other community members present, with one committee member suggesting creating smaller units “will not improve the urban condition on that block.” Committee Chair Barry Grossbach said plainly the owner’s desire to convert the house goes “against the grain” of what the SHCA “is encouraging,” which is the development of more single-family units. Grossbach and other members pressed to the owner that her building has existing features—like a large backyard and close proximity to transit—that would attract young families and couples as renters.

Grossbach said the Committee will get in touch with the owner about their opinion within the next few days. In the meantime, a zoning hearing is scheduled for the property on March 19.

Annamarya Scaccia

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Orens Brothers the buyer for Wilson Elementary at 46th and Woodland

February 27, 2014


A mural at the Alexander Wilson School. (Archived photo).

Drexel’s planned purchase of the University City High School/Drew Elementary School site is one of four tentative deals the School District announced yesterday.

The West Philly-based property developer Orens Brothers was named the finalist to redevelop the Alexander Wilson School property at 46th and Woodland. As we reported earlier this month, they plan to build a residential complex on the site. Orens Brothers has developed several properties in the neighborhood, including the infamous Croydon building.

The district’s chief operating officer, Fran Burns, said during a meeting to announce Drexel’s plans for the University City High site that the district will make about $23 million on the sales of seven properties that are currently pending. The University City High site contains three properties (the high school, Drew and the affiliated Walnut Center).

Finalists for other properties include:

• Shaw Middle School (54th and Warrington) to Mastery Charter School. Mastery’s Hardy Williams High School is already housed in that building.

• Douglas High School in Port Richmond to Maritime Academy Charter School.

Harrison Elementary School (10th and Thompson) has not been sold. Some 21 more district properties closed last year will be for sale in the coming years.

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Drexel to buy University City High and Drew; K-8 complex, residential and retail planned

February 26, 2014

The plot that Drexel plans to buy includes University City High School and Drew Elementary School.


Drexel University is set to substantially expand its footprint north of Market Street with the tentative purchase of the 14-acre property where the shuttered University City High School and Drew Elementary School currently stand. Drexel plans to build residential housing, retail space and, most importantly, a K-8 school complex.

Drexel’s plan was outlined in broad terms during a meeting Wednesday night at West Philadelphia High School to announce that the university was the winning bidder on the property, one of seven properties the School District of Philadelphia has for sale. The School Reform Commission is expected to approve the sale during its March 20 meeting.

Drexel’s plan for the site includes an expanded Powel Elementary School, which currently serves students in K-4, and a Science Leadership Academy (SLA) middle school. If approved, the site would be the first middle school for SLA,  the acclaimed magnet school that has a campus in Center City that works closely with the Franklin Institute and a nascent high school program in the Beeber Middle School building in the Overbrook neighborhood.

Officials stressed that the plans are very tentative and are subject to several community meetings and the city zoning process. The terms of the purchase, including a possible price, has not been announced.

About 100 people attended the meeting, including members of the Powelton Village Civic Association and the Mantua Civic Association. The responses to the announcement ranged from relief to indignation.

“The community coming into this was very nervous,” said George Poulin of the Powelton Village Civic Association. “But we are excited about the possibilities of the site.”

The Powelton Village neighborhood would benefit the most from the project, particularly from an expanded Powel School.

Mantua residents, whose children lost their high school when University City High closed, questioned whether the project would help them.

“We don’t know where our community is heading,” said Terry Wrice, a University City High graduate and son of famed city activist Herman Wrice. “Our kids are all over the place.”

High school students from Mantua have been assigned to West Philadelphia High School, where many have experienced confrontations with students from other neighborhoods.

Lucy Kerman, Drexel’s vice provost for University and Community Partnerships, said the university has no plans to include a high school on the site.

“Our commitment has been to support the existing school and that means Powel,” she said during the meeting. “Our vision is in the K-8 space.”

The site will also include residential housing. “It will not be dormitories,” said Bob Francis, Drexel’s vice president of University Facilities.

Francis said the retail would be “small and locally organized.”

“We see ourselves as participating in the recovery of West Philadelphia,” Francis said. “This is about improving the tax base and bringing in jobs.”

Drexel’s push further north into West Philadelphia neighborhoods has increased under president John Fry. Fry, of course, was one of the key architects of the University of Pennsylvania’s initiatives west of 40th Street, including the construction of the Penn Alexander School, while he was executive vice president of Penn from 1995 to 2002.

Residents will have many opportunities to weigh in on the project at different stages. The next chance is the March 20 meeting of the SRC. Click here for information on registering to speak at that meeting. The deadline to register is 4:30 p.m. on March 19.

Mike Lyons

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