Archive | May, 2014

Meeting tonight on important zoning changes between Chestnut and Spruce, 45th to 50th

May 30, 2014


Proposed zoning changes fall within the area pictured above.

Proposed zoning changes for the area stretching from 45th to 50th streets and between Chestnut and Spruce streets will be the subject of a public meeting tonight at the Lea School Auditorium (47th and Locust). Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced the proposed changes on May 8th and the City Council’s Rules Committee hearing (the last opportunity for public input) is scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, according to Garden Court Community Association’s Zoning Chair Mariya Khandros.

The Garden Court, Walnut Hill and Spruce Hill neighborhoods are included in the area, so residents in these neighborhoods are encouraged to attend today’s meeting to provide their input (yes, we know it’s Friday night but the zoning changes affect almost every block in that area, so the organizers want to make sure that as many residents as possible give their input).

The changes include switching some parcels from multi-family to single-family zoning, or changing a commercially zoned location to residential. The parcel that includes the old West Philadelphia High School would also reportedly be zoned  for commercial use, presumedly to clear the way for  development of the high school building.

Blackwell introduced several zoning changes earlier this month, including proposed rezoning of the old University City High School parcel at 38th and Powelton.

The meeting will be held from 6 – 8 p.m.. Tuesday’s public hearing will be held in Room 4000 in the City Hall.


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Is Penn paying its fair share? Community forum this Saturday

May 29, 2014

University of Pennsylvania (Source: Wikipedia)

University of Pennsylvania (Source: Wikipedia)

Is the University of Pennsylvania paying its fair share?

It’s a question worth asking and it’s at the heart of the upcoming Philadelphia Area Jobs with Justice (JWJ) community forum, taking place Sat. May 31 at Monumental Baptist Church (4948 Locust Street). The forum, which begins at 3 p.m., will discuss Penn’s contributions (and lack thereof) to Philadelphia, as well as a campaign for the university to make PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) contributions—voluntary payments made to the city by nonprofit hospitals and universities, which are tax-exempt entities, that benefit city schools and services.

According to the labor and social justice coalition, while the rest of Philadelphia is grappling with employment insecurity, slashes to the city budget, cutbacks in public services, and a long-standing education crisis, Penn continues to prosper on and around its 994-acre campus. The JWJ points out, the Ivy League’s total endowment is valued at $7.74 billion as of the 2013 fiscal year, and its president, Amy Gutmann, makes over $2 million a year as of 2011—over $600,000 more than 2010—ranking her as one of the highest-paid university presidents in the country. The university’s total budget for the 2014 fiscal year, though, is $6.6 billion, which consists of a $3.634 billion payroll budget including benefits.

And none of that money is earmarked for PILOT contributions—at least, not since 2000. In 1995, the city and Penn struck a five-year agreement during  which the university would voluntarily pay $1.93 million a year to the city as part of PILOT, but the program expired, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. None of Philadelphia’s 2011 PILOT money came from Penn, Drexel University nor Temple University. Instead, reported Generocity, the biggest contributor was a 40-acre retirement community in Andorra called Cathedral Village that donated $272,250 of the $383,650 the city received in that year.

In response to Penn’s lack of PILOT contributions, Gutmann told DP in 2012:We are very committed to having a big economic impact on the city. We’ve been cited as a model around this country of a university that has the most positive impact on its neighborhood and city.”

But JWJ clearly sees it differently.

“As you probably guessed, [‘Is U. Penn paying its fair share?’] is a bit of a leading question. [O]f course U. Penn isn’t paying its fair share,” the organization wrote on the event’s page. “It’s one of only two Ivies that refuse to make PILOT contributions … Well, we think it’s time to pay up.”

Registration is required for the forum. To register, click here. For more information, email

Annamarya Scaccia


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Join University City old house tour on Sunday

May 29, 2014


Modern row houses, late 1930s. Illustration by Sylvia Barkan 1971. Image courtesy of UCHS.

Would you like to take a stroll around some West Philly neighborhoods and learn more about architectural styles of some oldest homes in the area? You can do it this Sunday thanks to University City Historical Society (UCHS) who is organizing the “House and Home” walking tour. Here’s more information from the UCHS website:

“In a variety of building styles spanning a century of West Philadelphia development, see the special ways homeowners have decorated, furnished, and adapted to make these houses ‘homes.’ The homeowners will be on hand to tell you more…

The houses on the tour will only be revealed the day of the event when you pick up your tickets…

This is a walking tour, involving many staircases — wear comfortable shoes!”

If this sounds like something you want to do on a Sunday afternoon, you can purchase tickets in advance at for $20. Same day tickets are $25. Tickets bought in advance online can be picked up at 4501 Baltimore Ave., ZED’s Last Minute Gifts from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

The tour will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. For more details about the tour and UCHS, visit


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Repair the World’s West Philly office open house today

May 28, 2014

Copy of West Philly open House (6)The regional non-profit Repair the World: Philadelphia just moved its headquarters to West Philly (4029 Market Street) and tonight from 6 – 8:30 p.m. community members are invited over to celebrate the brand new office’s opening together with staff and volunteers. We reported on the pending move last month.

The open house will have food, drinks and entertainment, including a photo booth and kids activities. You can also meet neighbors participating in community-building collaborative art projects.

One of the main goals of Repair the World is to mobilize Jewish youth to help improve communities and guests can learn about volunteer opportunities available in the area.

For more information, email: The open house registration page is here.


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Gray Area: Figuring out what to do with Philly’s empty historic buildings

May 26, 2014

Hawthrone Hall (Photo from

Hawthorne Hall (Photo from

Down every street, and around every corner, we see Philadelphia’s history chronicled in the old brick roads, the abandoned trolley tracks, and every lot overrun by foliage.

Most of all, we see the city’s history in the timeworn foundations of its older buildings. Be it the imposing Provident Mutual Life Insurance building or the grandiose Divine Lorraine Hotel, Philadelphia’s antiquity is forever sealed in their unique brickwork and beguiling design.

But how we preserve the architecture of that history has become uninspired, if not non-existent. Instead, Philly’s historic buildings are bulldozed to make way for shopping centers and luxurious townhouses. Or they’re left abandoned—nothing more than waning icons relegated to the pronoun of “I wonder what that used to be.”

That’s where GRAY AREA comes in. Supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, GRAY AREA is an experimental project launched by the University of the Arts and DesignPhiladelphia of the Center for Architecture that looks at “historic preservation in the modern city.” Currently in its third phase, GRAY AREA aims to engage both design and development experts and the public at large in envisaging creative ways to maintain and repurpose the city’s older buildings so they’re moments of revitalization in their communities.

As part of its third phase, known as GRAY AREA 3, a multi-disciplinary cohort of experts and community partners spent most of last year studying two historic buildings: Hawthorne Hall (3849 Lancaster Avenue) in Powelton Village/Mantua, and the Max Levy building (212-220 Roberts Avenue) in Germantown. Armed with a series of questions raised during GRAY AREA’s first two phases—a panel discussion and a facilitated conversation, respectively—the team researched the buildings’ history and their cultural significance in an effort to cultivate ideas for “eventual interpretation, reuse and design.”

This Wed, May 28, the GRAY AREA 3 team will gather at the Catalyst for Change Church (3727 Baring Street) to share their findings on Hawthorne Hall with the West Philly community. The event, which begins at 6 p.m., will serve as the third phase’s final community meeting in which they will test a preservation toolkit developed for “encouraging meaningful dialogue, making unexpected and new connections, and generating ideas,” GRAY AREA Project Director Elise Vider told West Philly Local.
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Food, real estate and more business updates

May 23, 2014

In an effort to keep the West Philly community up-to-date on happenings in the area, West Philly Local followed up on some projects we have followed over the last year. Here’s what we found so far:

TacoAngelenoGrandopeningFirst, for the most important update, Taco Angeleno is open for business! The outdoor taco joint, located at 5019 Baltimore Avenue, officially opened on Thursday, May 8 after months of delays and red tape. The grand opening party is this Friday (May 23), from 5 – 9 p.m. If Taco Angeleno’s Facebook page is any indication, it seems business is so far going well for owner Vanessa Jerolmack—even selling out of food her first weekend open. To satisfy those taco cravings, stop by Taco Angeleno from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

In other local food related news, the guys from Pitruco Pizza, the popular wood fired pizza truck often seen on the Drexel campus, who are also serving their signature fare as Enjay’s Pizza at Smokey Joe’s on 40th St, recently started a delivery service out to 50th Street for a $2 charge. “A real nice service for the neighborhood,” writes West Philly Local reader and Pitruco/Enjay’s fan Louis Tannen.


Gush Gallery co-founders Sarah Thielke and Stephanie Slate (Photo courtesy of Thielke and Slate).

This summer, Taco Angeleno will have a new neighbor, Gush Gallery. The art gallery space, which West Philly Local profiled in January, will open Friday, Aug 1 at 5015 Baltimore Avenue, which is currently home to a local barber shop (owners Sarah Thielke and Stephanie Slate get the keys to the space on July 1). On opening day, which is also a First Friday event, the duo will premiere their first group exhibit, “Embark,” which will feature local artists. There’s a chance they may open a week earlier than the exhibit’s launch date, but don’t hold them to it.

SedgleyIn real estate news, it seems construction of the Sedgley Apartments (pictured right) will finally be finished by next week and available to rent in June, Noah Ostroff, principal at 400 S. 45th Street, LLC., told West Philly Local. This is different than what he told us in September; when asked about the six month difference, Ostroff said there weren’t any delays, but “construction took longer than expected.”  Continue Reading

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