Real Estate

“Broken Chains” mural at 52nd and Larchwood to be removed; Provide feedback for new mural’s design this Thursday

Posted on 11 April 2017

The “Broken Chains” mural at 52nd and Larchwood will be removed due to a new construction project.

Murals are an important part of Philadelphia history and cultural legacy, so it’s a big deal for many residents to hear that a mural in their neighborhood has to be removed. We learned that the “Broken Chains” mural at 52nd and Larchwood can’t be saved due to a new construction project. Understanding the mural’s importance to the community, the project developer, West Philly-based real estate and development firm Spak Group, has offered to fund a new mural at the same location after the construction project is completed.

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and artists KC White and Gabe Tiberino have been engaged to work on the new mural, and community members are invited this Thursday (April 13) to join the conversation and help inform the design of the mural that will celebrate Black History and empowerment. The meeting will take place at Philadelphia Student Union (501 S. 52nd St.), beginning at 6:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.  Continue Reading

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City’s highest rents are in University City, according to reports

Posted on 06 April 2017

Rents in the city continue to grow, and University City is one of Philadelphia’s most expensive areas to rent in, according to recent reports. In its last month’s report based on the data from real estate company Zumper, writes that the average one-bedroom rental is $1,800 per month in the area, making it the second most expensive neighborhood in the city (Logan Circle is first). This is a 14 percent increase from February 2016.

However, it’s important to clarify that the report defines University City as the area between 40th Street west to the Schuylkill River east, which includes the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University campuses where some of the city’s most expensive high-rise apartment buildings were built over the last few years.  Continue Reading

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Gangster Vegan cancels immediate plans for West Philly (updated)

Posted on 22 June 2016


UPDATE (6/23/2016): Gangster Vegan Organics owner Vinny DePaul told that he was planning to sign the lease for the storefront at 4305 Locust St. after it was fully renovated, but “started having issues with the landlord” and decided not to continue with his plans for the space. Instead, he’s eyeing a new location in the area.

Looks like Gangster Vegan Organics, a restaurant and juice bar, is not coming to Locust Street as previously reported, and the space is now back on the market.

An employee at the only current Gangster Vegan organic location (in Norristown), said that “things didn’t quite work out” with the building’s owner, but West Philly is not completely out of the picture.

Gangster Vegan Organics is now focusing on their expansion in Phoenixville instead.

“For Rent” signs have recently been posted on the windows at 4305 Locust St. (pictured). The ground floor space has been renovated after the fire in March 2015 that forced Cafe Renata, which was renting it at the time, to relocate to Baltimore Avenue.

Rana Fayez

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Tony’s Barber Shop building on Baltimore Ave. for sale

Posted on 10 June 2016


The building at 4529 Baltimore Avenue that used to host Tony’s “Just For Men” Barber Shop has recently been listed for sale for $415,000. The 1,760 square feet property includes a ground-floor commercial space, a partially finished basement, and two apartments (a large two-bedroom with a deck and a studio on the ground floor behind the commercial space). It is zoned CMX-2 (Commercial/Commercial Mixed-Use).

The property was for sale in 2013, shortly after the original business owner, Tony Rodriguez’s, passing. Then it was listed for $285,000 but was taken off the market a month later. It appears that Rodriguez’s family kept the business running for a few more years.

The property is listed by MPN Realty, a company that often handles properties in this section of Baltimore Ave., which is also listing the property, provides the following description of Baltimore Avenue:

“The face of Baltimore Avenue has changed dramatically in the last year alone from unstable mom and pop businesses to more professional successful operations. In the last year alone, The Nesting House, Jinxed, Renata’ s Kitchen (formerly Café Renata) and Loco Pez have opened or are in the process of opening businesses in Spruce Hill.”

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Resolution passes to extend Spruce Hill zoning authority to include USciences building plans (updated)

Posted on 13 April 2016

wilson school

USciences unveiled plans to build a large dormitory on the site of the former Alexander Wilson School at a public meeting last month.

UPDATE (April 14, 2016): After reading this post, SHCA zoning chair Barry Grossbach wrote to clarify the new boundaries. He wrote:

“Read your description of our proposed boundary expansion and it might be a bit misleading. It suggests that we are expanding into neighborhoods south of Woodland Avenue. To the contrary, we specifically said that we did NOT want to encroach on West Shore, and that our concern was to have some say on development on the south side of Woodland Avenue. There are specific criteria that City Planning has to use in drawing RCO boundaries, so they followed the procedure that imposes the most minimal intrusion into any residential area ( a block or two adjacent to USciences campus).  Almost all of what would be designated as West Shore is NOT included in this proposed expansion.”

The Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) passed a resolution on Tuesday night that extends its jurisdiction as a “registered community organization” (RCO) to the neighborhoods south of Woodland Avenue. That means it now will likely weigh in on important zoning issues along Woodland, including the University of the Sciences’ plans to build a large dormitory complex on the site of the former Alexander Wilson school at 46th and Woodland.

RCOs are in place around Philadelphia to facilitate public debate over proposed development and while their recommendations are not binding, they are considered during Zoning Board of Adjustment hearings.

SHCA zoning chair Barry Grossbach told the organization’s board last night that the city’s Planning Commission supports the boundary extension. The commission will have to approve the resolution.

SHCA’s boundaries as an RCO, which had previously stopped at the northern side of Woodland Avenue, will extend south to the train tracks south of the USciences’ campus. USciences plans to construct several buildings over the next decade or so and it has been unclear which RCOs would consider the proposals.

Mike Lyons

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Three West Philly structures, including a striking parking garage, win preservation awards

Posted on 06 April 2016

Walnut 32 Parking Garage

“Walnut 32,” the parking garage on Penn’s campus at 3201 Walnut, is one of the winners of this year’s Preservation Achievement Awards. Others include the Penn Museum (below) and the Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands (far below). Photos provided by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.


Three West Philly buildings, including the Penn Museum, the Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands and a parking garage, are among the winners of this year’s Preservation Achievement Awards.

Built in 1770 (and rebuilt since), the Hamilton Mansion is the centerpiece of The Woodlands’ grounds. The preservation award is for the restoration of the cryptoporticus, an underground passageway on the front of the building, and north terrace. Penn Museum’s award is for the renovation of the building’s west wing, which began in 2010.

Perhaps most intriguing is the award to the parking garage called “Walnut 32.” It’s safe to say that parking garages typically draw few fans of architecture. But there is something about Walnut 32 that is appealing. At least the architects tried in 1963 to make interesting what is a necessary evil and typically a blotch on the architectural landscape. Even the folks at Hidden City Philadelphia really like it, writing that “it may not be a beautiful building, but it does reveal its structure in a striking and elegant way.”  Continue Reading

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