Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Old Ass Building(s): Ten Remaining Derelicts

Philadelphia, PA

Photo by Michael Bixler

           I put together a list of 10 properties that are still underutilized as shit despite the kick-ass building boom the city if going through. Read all about them at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Fox-Henry Residence

1906-08 Spruce St

               I've always liked this mansion-condo and now you're going to like it too! Check out its long and diverse story at the Hidden City Daily!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Hugo Bilgram Machineworks

1217-33 Spring Garden Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
             Y'all know I hate concrete buildings, but this badboy stands as proof that they weren't always too bad. On top of that, its originator was one of the most badass Philadelphians that ever lived. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily, and donate some scrilla while you're there!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Treacy Building

2700 Germantown Ave

Photo by Michael Bixler
              This building is badass for several reasons-- check out what they are at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Keyser Building

1017 Arch Street

         This little white building in Chinatown is pretty dang cool-- check out my story about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Old-Ass Parking Garage: Aldine Garage

2027-2039 Sansom Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
             Haven't written about a parking garage in awhile and this one is a good example of what parking garages should look like. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Big George's Stop N Dine

283-285 South 52nd St

Photo by Michael Bixler
            This little corner of West Philly's 52nd Street business corridor has sure seen a lot of action in its time. Not only is it now for sale, you can also read my story about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Hotel Carlyle

1423-25 Poplar St

Photo by Michael Bixler
              Not only do I love the name of this Hotel, I love that it is one of the only remaining vestiges of the city's storied past. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Woodward-Wanger/Lawsonia Building

1106-1114 Spring Garden Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
                This is another building I've always enjoyed and it looks like after all these years, it's finally gonna be re-used! Check it out at the Hidden City Daily!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Old Ass Building: Schaff Building

1505-11 Race Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
                You never even noticed this building, did you? Well, I have... read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Oakdale Bakery

2150 N 10th St, 10th and Susquehanna, 1000 West Susquehanna

Photo by Michael Bixler.
                Whenever I see a building like this, I gotta find out what's the story with it. Ends up this old bastard is the origin point of Rold Gold pretzels!! Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Hamilton Whist Club

247 South 41st Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
             West Philly has lost a lot of places as interesting as this, but once in awhile one of them manages to stay alive. Read all about this crazy bastard at the Hidden City Daily!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fill This Front: 1900 Arch

1900 Arch Street, Suite 102

I guess if you want to name your store/restaurant PARKING you won't have to change the sign.
           Ok, I gave this one some time, but for fuck's sake, if you're going to build this little dinky disappointing shitbird of an apartment building on a lot that should have a fucking supertall skyscraper on it, you might as well get some nice retail on the street level! Nonetheless, this shit has been available for over a year and still can't get filled. What the fuck is going on here? Let's FILL THIS FRONT!
           So in case you've been under a rock for the past couple of years, there's been a lot of goings-on in the development world at 19th and Arch Streets. A few years ago, PMC Property Group, longtime student-ghetto and aging apartment building operator/manager (read their awesome reviews along with some more here and here and here and here) decided that they should get into the game of actually building their own shit instead of poorly managing (again, according to the reviews which you can read even more of here and here and here) or rehabbing existing properties.
         And shit is what they did build. Everyone was excited when they were going to re-do the old AAA Building into apartments, but the result ended up being even uglier and more boring looking than the original. After people started living there for awhile, they complained about the shoddy construction and shitty management. However, at least they were able to get the storefronts filled with some half-decent stuff so the rest of us who don't live there would at least get something out of the street level experience.
          While that ass-scraper was starting construction, PMC teamed-up with EB Realty to develop a new apartment building at the long-derelict southwest corner of 19th and Arch Streets. It was to be a miniscule building much smaller than other midrises to the south and northeast... I know they couldn't have possibly known about the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center's coming to the lot across the street AND there was a shitty real estate market at the time, but even so, the building is too damn short for the area.
          Right after groundbreaking, some legal shit ensued and EB Realty was no longer involved with the project. Once completed in April 2014, the two retail spaces on the ground floor of what ended up being a plastic-facaded-looking little building anyone could probably knock over if they kicked hard enough went up for lease. Oh, and the apartments above started getting almost the same exact reviews as 2040 Market. I must say the lobby, courtyard, roofdeck, and gym look pretty nice though.
          Maybe I'm being a little hard on PMC. After all, their two new builds were done during a shitty time for real estate across America. They are currently on deck to do some more new shit-- they are currently building One Water Street which isn't exactly getting my hopes up, but at least is new construction on the waterfront. They are also the ones that will re-do the Marketplace Design Center, and they just bought one of Richard Basciano's 1903-built slum properties next door. Hopefully, they'll do it right this time.
           The two retail spaces on the ground floor of 1900 Arch are 7,000 sq ft and 4,300 sq ft. The 7,000 sq ft one faces a long stretch of Arch Street and is integral to giving this building the ability to make up for its crappy look by engaging the street level so no one will notice-- therefore let's just focus on that one getting filled right now.

Rendering of the storefront in 2013 with translucent walls behind the display windows and a generic "CAFE" sign.
               This is a 7,000 square foot space with 137 goddamn feet of street frontage along Arch Street and another 21 ft facing 19th. Not enough? There's another 77 feet of frontage along the courtyard of the building itself. There are 234 apartment units above with a whole bunch more about to come online with the addition of 1924 Arch along the back of this building. Literally hundreds of thousands of people work every day in the surrounding buildings and another tens of thousands live nearby. This location is accessible by nearly every form of public transportation in the whole city, there's not reason to go through it all.

The courtyard side of the space.
               If that's not enough for you because at this point you must be nuts, the tallest goddamn building in the entire city that includes a motherfucking high-end-ass hotel is being built across the street and after that, the same developer is eyeing up the corner across the other street for another big-ass building in the future. That means that if you can stick it out at this storefront for awhile, you'll have access to even more thousands of potential customers. The place rents for $315,000-$420,000/yr which seems a bit high for me, but what do I know? Its been empty long enough that you could probably talk them down on the price a bit, right? Anyway, here's the listing on Loopnet via Precision Realty Group--be the one that will FILL THIS FRONT.

The big motherfucker going up on the opposite corner.
 UPDATE: Jacob Cooper from MSC Retail tells me that the space is now leased!! Thanks for the info, Jacob!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Old-Ass Building: R.C. Ballinger Building

218 North 13th Street

             I've always loved this old baller down in what I call Season City. However, I wasn't expecting this much history! Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Butt-Fugly Public Art: Life Savers by Billie Lawless

38th and Spruce, Southwest Corner

               I haven't done one of these in awhile but when I happened upon this tarnished piece of elephant dung I couldn't resist telling you about it. What a piece of trash-- people wonder why art/design/architecture from the 1980s constantly gets derided. Well, this is your answer.
              It started in 1982. The Philadelphia Art Alliance had a sculpture show at Rittenhouse Square in order to celebrate the city's 300th birthday. The city was doing pretty shitty at the time but there were signs that things were about to get better-- plans were being put into motion to clean up/rebuild the City Hall clock tower, the One Logan Square/Four Seasons complex was breaking ground, the Hershey Philadelphia Hotel (now Doubletree) Broad and Locust was just finished, and a major motion picture was being filmed in the city. 
            Sculptor Billie Lawless prepared a submission for the show and I guess he didn't have to think very hard about it because he already designed a sculpture one year earlier called Cockle-Doodle-Doo (now standing at the Buffalo State College campus) that was EXTREMELY similar. He made this 1,200 pound pile of metal dogshit in the shape of 3 half circles, painted them goofy colors, and called it Life Savers because they kind of look like the candy of the same name. I don't know how they got a hold of it, but a year later, art patrons Phillip and Muriel Berman donated it and another sculpture to the University of Pennsylvania.
            UPenn put it up right next to the doorway of their veterinary hospital's emergency room, I guess so that when you bring your dying dog in, you can see the sculpture and say to yourself "Well, it sucks that my dog's dead, but at least I didn't make that shitty sculpture!"

Photo of it from when it was first installed. Source: University of Pennsylvania Almanac, February 22,1983.

             Maybe they put it next to the veterinary hospital because it's called Life Savers and lives are saved in there? Anyway, the sculpture sat in the same spot for the next 31 years until, in the latter half of 2014, it was mysteriously moved to the corner of 38th and Spruce along with the plaque from its dedication.
             Since the move, a large pockmark has appeared on the red part, which is even more mysterious. Its not there in the Google Streetview at the original location from May 2014:

            Whatever. You'd think that if they were gonna move this thing to a location where waaaaay more people were going to see it, they would have restored the motherfucker first. Oh well-- just yet another UPenn public art atrocity. You'd think that all those fancy professors and students over there would try to make this kind of shit better, but it just keeps getting worse. Get on the ball, Penn. Get us some public art that people will actually want to look at once in awhile.

From this angle it looks just like the one at Buffalo State. Way to be creative, Billie.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Philadelphia Savings Fund Society

200 W Washington Square

Photo by Michael Bixler
                  Everyone loves this old bastard, but now its fucking Jefferson!?!? How the hell did this happen? Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fill This Front: Qdoba Wash West

1105 Walnut Street

            A year goes by an this nicely laid-out restaurant space is still empty. What the hell is going wrong? Let's see if we can figure this one out and finally FILL THIS FRONT!
          1105 Walnut was built in 1901 under the designs of J. Franklin Stuckert, a pretty prolific local architect who doesn't really get any respect. He did the Heid Building in the Eraserhood, the long-lost Hotel Vendig, and the bitchin'-looking Berean Presbyterian Church. This and the buildings that once stood where the Wendy's is now were built due to a widening of Walnut Street in 1900.
         The building's first occupant, the Bussa Sculptured Leather Company, used the storefront for their walk-in sales so I guess they were the first user of the space. In 1905-06, S.N. Rhoads' famous Franklin Book Shop sold exotic and hard-to-find books here for a couple of years before moving down the street.

           A couple of decades later, the building became the LaSalle Hotel and they used the ground floor for their restaurant of the same name.

All the way on the left in 1929.
            I'm not sure what was going on with it for the next few decades after that but in 1956 its owner of the period decided it was time to knock it down and build something new. For some reason, those plans were shelved and the building survived. By 1965, the storefront was back in use as a barbershop.
           In 1983, the front went from use as a psychic's place to a jewelry store that only lasted one year. In 1984, Formal Dimensions came along, renting out tuxedos from the place for many years thereafter. The ghost sign of the place still decorates the eastern party wall to this day.

           In 2004, some new owners bought the building for $895k and commissioned architect Sabrina Soong to make a new storefront design, combining with the basement store retail spot(where School of Hard Knox Barber Shop was) with the 1st floor and wiping out a portion of the 2nd floor to give the space a mezzanine. In 2007, the storefront opened its doors again as Qdoba Mexican Grill.

2007, when they didn't even have a proper sign yet via the Google Streetview Time Machine.
               Things seemed to go just fine for the place but just like what happened on the 1500 block of Walnut, a Chipotle opened half a block away. There's no way of knowing if it was related, but this Qdoba location was closed by the start of the Summer of 2014. The place went up for rent that August and is yet to be filled-- but its mysterious. The listing for the place went "Off Market" November 16th but still has a "Restaurant Available" sign on it. The sign has no phone number so I don't know how anyone who is interested is supposed to get in contact with those responsible. Maybe this is like the Home 2 Suites space where someone has leased it but hasn't gotten their shit in a pile yet to get opened.
              Anyway, just in case it IS still available, let me tell you about it. The spot is 3,200 square feet (basement + ground floor + mezzanine), has 20 feet of street frontage, and, like the sign says, is fully equipped for restaurant use. This is a great block to be on if you're a food establishment, since you're right next to Jefferson Hospital, where thousands of daily employees and patient's visitors get hungry every day. You've also got the Forrest Theater across the street, and when they do have a show running (which is unfortunately like once a year), there are tons of folks milling about. At night, the bars on the block give you a whole new mess of customers.
          The space has great transit access-- Walnut Street has a whole shitload of bus lines that run along it and, like others I've mentioned, it's very close to the system's longest and most-used bus line: the 23. Combine that with proximity to the 11th Street EL stop and Jefferson Station and you get some good-ass transit options. Now all you have to do is FILL THIS FRONT!

UPDATE 7/15/2015: Someone must have read this post because this space now has a listing on Loopnet with some actual contact info on it!! Of course, no price is listed because why the fuck would anyone want to know!!? Idiots.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Old-Ass Building(s): 15th and Federal

1438 Federal Street, 1440-42 Federal Street


             Everyone knows I love a good cornice-- when I found out that one of the buildings I've been wanted to write about forever was home to a Cornice King, I had to look further. Read all about the three buildings at the Southeast Corner of 15th and Federal at the Hidden City Daily!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fill This Front: Eastern Computer

425 South 15th Street Suite 1

                   Kind of a short one today-- there isn't much info out there about this little spot. However, I sure as shit haven't forgotten about it. After all, when the same occupant manages to hold the same spot for 25 years, there's no reason why that space should have to still be empty around a year later. This, then, is where we try to get this FRONT FILLed!
           From what I can tell, the space Eastern Computer occupied for all that time has a history of being a beauty shop in the 1950s and early 60s, a coffee shop in the late 60s and early 70s, and that's about it. A clothing store got rejected by zoning in 1986. It was in 1989 that Eastern Computer came along and held down the space for 25 goddamn years thereafter.  EASTERN Computer? East of what? How is an Eastern Computer different than a Western Computer?
          Some of you young bulls out there may not understand what a computer store is. Back in the day, there were tons of privately-owned computer stores out there where you could buy retail computers or get a custom one built. You could also buy all the games, peripherals, and other shit you buy at big box stores or online now. This all brings me back to when I was a kid and my Dad wanted to buy a home computer after taking some classes at Rider U. One of his dumb work friends told him that the only way to get a good deal on a computer was to go to a Computer Show and buy one of the ones built by the owner and proprietor of a custom computer store.
        I remember when my parents were gone all day at this computer show in Red Bank, NJ and came home with a gigantic 386/25 equipped with a 2400 baud modem, a 5 1/4 disk drive and a 3 1/2 disk drive, a PC Speaker, and a 40 meg hard drive! The motherfucker didn't even have a mouse! It took forever for my Dad to figure out how to hook it up and by the next night we all got to get a look at the Dos Shell!!

This is what it looked like, except this is 4 versions after the one we had.
          After about 3 months of use playing Life and Death, Alge-blaster Plus, shitty shareware games we'd pick up for $1 or download from BBSes for a million years, the computer broke like a motherfucker. The family now had to bring it up to Piscataway NJ, where the shitbag who built this computer's store was. We did this every 3 months for the next year or so. It was my first computer and it was a fucking lemon. We eventually figured out that we were better off going to the local privately owned computer store in town, Jerry's Custom Computers.
         Jerry himself fixed our computer in an hour and whenever something went wrong with it for the next 4 years, my Dad would call him to get a solution over the phone and then mail him a $15 check. My brother ended up taking the computer with him to college and by the time we bought our second computer, a Pentium/75 with a 1 gig harddrive, a 28.8 bps modem, and a CD-Rom, Jerry's Custom Computers and pretty much every other privately computer store in the burbs had long gone out of business, snuffed out the growth of Dell and big box stores.
       However, in the cities, these stores survived. Even to this day, there are still a few kicking out there, altering themselves to fit the times like Bundy Computer, for example. Others managed to survive for massively long periods of time while carrying the exact same business model-- Eastern Computer, until 2014, was one of them, rocking the corner of 16th and Lombard for 24 years without even changing their sign or the shit in their display window. Even ATM-Computing 2000+ at 53rd and Spruce changed some of their shit up during that time. Others shifted their focus to phones-- you see plenty of what I call the Electronic Junk stores around the city-- not as many in the past few years, however.
        Ok, enough nostalgia about old time PC computing. The empty storefront is what's important. This retail storefront lies at the northeast corner of 15th and Lombard-- a high-foot traffic corner close enough to the University of the Arts, Symphony House, South Street stuff, and other attractions that there's no reason why the right person couldn't make this place shine. Its pretty close to the Broad Street Line and is located on the route of the hard-to-find 40 Bus. However, the 4, 27, and 32 all have stops a block away and serve a large portion of the region.
       I'm not sure what the square footage of the space is but it's pretty small. However, any number of businesses like small spaces like this-- a corner cafe, a small art gallery, you name it. It doesn't appear that this thing is available for lease, at least not yet, but it wouldn't hurt if you called the owners of the Gibson Apts (look is up in OPA) and offered a few bucks to lease this place. What are they gonna do? Turn down extra income?
       However you do it, get on the ball with this one and FILL THIS FRONT!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Bellevue Court Building

1418 Walnut St

Photo by Michael Bixler
            I've always loved this skinny bastard but never knew that there used to be a street next to it. Not only that-- the building is named after that street! Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

GroJLart's Favorite Grub!

              I often get asked about what bars and restaurants I enjoy around the city-- I've avoided posting such a thing because there are plenty of food blogs etc out there already, however I've finally given in and have written it all down. I know most of you probably don't give a shit, but I think I'm ready to list for ya the ones I like the most... and if you don't like it, FUCK YOU!! It's my birthday. How am I 35 already? I was 25 like two weeks ago as far as I'm concerned.
        Everyone thinks they're an expert on food and restaurants-- I blame the Food Network just like I blame HGTV for making everyone think they're a house flipper. Yelp made things worse by making people think that anyone gives a fuck about what individual shitbirds think about a certain establishment and caused this bullshit I see where people whip out their phones to take a picture as soon as food is placed in front of them. Nonetheless, I'll present to you the ones I like while also admitting that I am not a culinary expert nor claim to know what its like to run a restaurant or bar.
        I should preface this by telling you that I go through stages where I go to the same place over and over again, get tired of it, and then move on to another spot to go over and over again. Therefore, some of these places are spots I like to go to now and some of them are places I used to go to once a week and have moved on from, but still like a lot.
         I have placed them into categories I totally made up on the spot but think are appropriate for organizational purposes:

Friday Nighters: Places I've gone to over and over again on Friday nights for months at a time.

Gennaro's Tomato Pie, 1429 Jackson St:

         This place is the motherfucking bizzomb!! They've been around since like 1916 and offer super-crispy tomato pies on a super-thin crust. It almost seems like this is the place Nomad Roman and some others like it are trying to be. The service is awesome, the atmosphere is great, it doesn't get too crowded, and its a BYOB!! I can't say enough good shit about Gennaro's. I almost don't want to tell you about it in the fear that it might start getting too popular. Nonetheless, they definitely get the GroJLart Seal of Approval, for whatever that's worth.

Cheu Noodle Bar, 255 South 10th St:

         You probably all know about Cheu already, but in case you don't, this is where you can get some good-ass ramen dishes that are made in unique and interesting varieties. Its not for people who are hardcore traditional ramen believers, but for folks who want to taste something good. The place is small as fuck, but that's part of the reason I like it. Sit at the bar and watch them make your meal. They change the menu constantly so even if you get tired of their current menu you know it will be changing soon (of course this can backfire if you really like something and they change it too much). Friendly and personal service-- after you go there a few times they will definitely remember you. Places always remember me because I'm a weirdo but they remember normal folks too from what I understand.

Franky Bradley's, 1320 Chancellor St: 

         This is probably the newest place on this list but its probably the one of the best. Franky Bradley's is the modern version of a classic Philly steak house of the same name that was in the same location! The food combos on the menu seem like they were arranged by an insane person but when you try them, they knock your fucking socks off! I'm pretty sure there's a hole in their wall somewhere from when my actual socks blew off at terminal velocity from tasting one of their appetizers.

Breakfast/Second Breakfast: Where to get that awesome meal in the morning-- or second breakfast, where to get kick-ass breakfast items in the afternoon.

Dutch Eating Place, Reading Terminal Market:

           HOLY CRAP!! Hands down the best breakfast I know about anywhere at any time. I've been going to this place on and off for at least five years and I still haven't gotten past the pancakes. Maybe their other items on the menu are horrible, but I'll probably never know. At the Dutch Eating Place, you get super-huge pancakes along with a piece of sausage the size of your head and a pat of butter that you could pick up with both hands. Real maple syrup, kick-ass super-friendly fast service, and all for a very very insanely low price!

Excellent. Image by Monavano at DonRockwell.com
Silk City Diner 435 Spring Garden Street:

        Its a diner, its a bar, its a lounge, its an everything. Again, can't get past the pancakes, which they call Silk Cakes. These motherfuckers are malted pancake batter with a pre-installed slice of bacon!! Don't want to wait forever? Go there for a Second Breakfast in the afternoon.

Honorable Mention:

Honey's Sit N' Eat Numerous Locations:

       Another good spot for a Second Breakfast since nowhere is worth waiting an hour in the morning. Pretty decent prices, great service, good food. Whole Wheat Pancakes.

Let's Get Drunk: Places to get your drink on and have a good time. I find that people get very particular about the type of venue they get wasted in so this is the list that will probably create the most ire out there.

McGlinchey's 259 South 15th Street:

           I like this place so much that I went nuts researching its long history and interviewing its owner. This was my first Philly bar and will probably be my last. I quit smoking again this last Thanksgiving so I haven't been there in awhile, but the place is great-- cheap beers up to and including Yeungling Porter on draft, the graffiti in the bathroom, the massive variety of characters drinking together-- it can't be beat.

It's daytime in this picture, I swear! Pic by Brad Maule
 Oscar's Tavern 1524 Sansom Street:

           This place is a great non-smoking alternative to McGlinchey's-- they even have the same booths! Not only can you get some tall-ass draft beers here for a good price, the servers remember you even when you haven't been there in a year AND the cheesefries are fucking awesome!! There was one time when I sat next to the chef on the Broad Street Line and beamed with pride for being in his deep fried presence. Back in the day they used to have a DJ in on Friday nights-- the guy was so good that I hired him for my wedding!

Bar-Ly 101 North 11th Street:

            Do you like to get drunk and then eat some fattening-ass foods? This is the place for you. Sixty beers on tap, including the entire line up of Six Point beers. Once you're drunk enough, there's a massive assortment on the menu, from cheeseburgers to sushi. Its also a huge sports bar with TV's everywhere if you're into that sort of thing. They claim to be the largest sports bar in Chinatown but since the largest actual restaurant space in the whole city (Public House) is a block away that doesn't seem to matter much. The best part about this place is going to the bathroom-- its located down a long hallway and seems to be shared with the HSBC Bank branch on the same floor.

Bongo Bar and Deck 401 South Columbus Avenue (Deck of the Moshulu):

           I discovered this place while hanging out at the Spruce Street Harbor Park last summer-- I wish I knew about it before!! This is a bar on the deck of the Moshulu where you can get drunk while sitting among the fake masts/lines/yard arms that were added to the ship in 1970 to make it look old-timey. Not only are the beers cheap as fuck compared to everywhere else around, you can smoke cigarettes on the outdoor part of the deck! Its also a great spot to watch the Penn's Landing fireworks on the 4th of July. This is one of those spots that tourists and out-of-towners know more about than actual Philadelphians, so you can often meet people there from parts unknown.

Honorable Mention: 

Frankford Hall 1210 Frankford Ave:

             A great spot for larger groups and great beers. I love how you can get drafts in a big-ass glass-- keeps you from going back and forth for beers constantly. I also quite enjoy going there for Urban Geek Drinks-- as I am Urban, a Geek, and I DRINK! In fact, I'm going to the one tonight! See you there! The food is pretty good too!

Gastro-explosions: Places where I can't stop eating and/or drinking for one reason or another

Dock Street Brewing Company 701 South 50th St:

             Despite its extremely misleading name, this place is located at the corner of 50th and Baltimore Avenue in West Philly. They've got their own awesome beers they make on site and offer a vast array of great food items. The Flammenkuche Pizza was my first favorite that I would get every time I was there until I had the Vegan Pesto Wrap and now I can't get enough of that one. They have these great panko-crusted mozz sticks that I call Mozzarella Pods and plenty of other great shit. I've been going there for at least 7 years and they are good at handling large groups as well.

Tashan 777 South Broad St:

          This is one of those places where even when the service is shit and you feel stupid for coming back, you forgive them the moment the food is placed in front of you. Seriously, I need to get away from this place. I like it so much that I wish it never existed. I first went there about the same week it opened and remember how silly it was when they'd give a big group the menu on a single iPad that we all had to pass around (they don't do that crap anymore) and how crazy the bathroom looked-- I just want to take a piss, not have a life-changing experience! The next few times I went the service was inconsistent and sometimes downright bad... but the food... that Old Delhi Butter Chicken should be illegal in like 17 states. That shit is fucking crack, I tell ya!!

Best crack I ever ate. Image by John of the Belly of the Pig food blog.
 Honorable Mentions: 

Supper 926 South St:

       A little pricier than I like but the food is outstanding. They serve a burger bigger than your mom's ass and who knew that duck and waffles went together? Genius! Great service too.

Brauhaus Schmitz 718 South St:

        Get the Schweinshaxe and you'll understand.

Snack Attack: For those random moments when you want a bite of something good. 

Cake and the Beanstalk 1112 Locust St:

              Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich-- that's all I have to say. It'll change your goddamn life for only 5 bucks.

Miller's Twist Reading Terminal Market:

             I don't even fucking like pretzels! Nonetheless, the pretzels from Miller's Twist at the Terminal are ungoddamnbelievable. Don't believe me? Try 'em! You won't be disappointed... and if you are, fuck you.

I love you Miller, whoever you are. Image from Tripadvisor.com
            Well there you have it. Don't approve of my choices? Think I'm a moron for liking any of this shit? Well, joke's on you! You read all the way down to here. I'll get back to architecture and shit next week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fill This Front: Home 2 Suites Space 3

1200 Arch Street

            Ok I waited about as long as I could for this one but now I've had about enough. This little hotel, despite being shitty-looking and way too small for its high-profile corner, has managed to be pretty impressive at engaging the street level experience out front-- at least on its 12th st side. As you can see, one little retail space on the Arch Street side is still empty as a motherfucker and doesn't seem to want to change any time soon. Enough of this shit! Let's Fill This Front!
           I'd like to tell you a long string of history detailing every occupant this place has had, but I can't simply because there is none! The hotel its in was completed in 2013, an ugly building that will forever stand as a symbol of the recent real estate bust. It stands on a site once targeted for a W Hotel!! It makes one wonder that if we all waited a few years, the new one now being site-prepped at 15th and Chestnut would have been built here instead! Funnily enough, the same architect who designed the new W also designed this place! I should also mention that a massive amount of government cheese was used to fund this little bastard, so enjoy the place-- you paid for it.

What was supposed to be there.
              When the hotel was complete, the other two retail spots in the building were already leased by Panera Bread and BurgerFi. I know people rag on having chains in Center City but being that this location is in Convention Land, these types of tenants are perfectly appropriate. I've never even been to a Panera Bread but BurgerFi is pretty fucking good. Plus I always appreciate a chain from far away that has only one location anywhere near here... I always tell people how I went to the BurgerFi in Key West because I'd never thought I'd see one again-- only to see them installing the sign on the place when I was in the cab on the way home from the airport.
          Anyway, what the fuck is with the last retail space? The other ones seem to be doing just fine-- they are crowded even when there is no convention in town. Nonetheless, this last little space stands empty with no sign of getting better. Therefore it's time to make this place shine.

Image from the Michael Salove Company
           The space is 1,948 Sq Ft  with a 22 foot frontage on Arch Street and the location is ideal. You're right in the middle of Conventionland near the corner of 12th and Arch streets. Now that the convention center has mostly fixed the bullshit that kept exhibitors from wanting to come here, there's a good chance that the right business plopped into this storefront would do really well. Don't forget that a shitload of potential customers are staying overnight in the floors above.
        Even if there was no convention-- this spot is still pretty good. You've got plenty of transit access via an EL/Trolley stop a block away to the south, a BSL stop not too far away, the shitload of buslines that run on Market Street nearby (which includes New Jersey Transit buses), and even Regional Rail access from Jefferson Station! Not enough? What are you, made of stone? Well, you should also know that SEPTA's longest and most heavily used bus line, the 23, passes right by this place. Don't forget the always-crowded Reading Terminal Market is on the next block!
        Strangely enough, even if you want this spot, I'm not sure you can have it. The listing for the space went "Off Market" on February 6th, but whomever or whatever has taken this place has yet to do shit to make their presence known. Michael Salove Company was the one marketing it. Hopefully there is a hero out there that has recognized this potential and has found a way to FILL THIS FRONT!!

UPDATE:  I have been informed that the space is leased and that the lessee should be officially revealed fairly soon. Thanks to Jacob Cooper from MSC Retail for the info!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Old-Ass Building: People For People Charter School

800 North Broad Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
               I have a personal connection to this building that y'all need not know about, but I figured it was time to get its awesome history out there. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fill This Front: Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles

1220 Spruce Street

            After nearly 2 decades of straight occupancy by the same tenant, this little storefront on the 1200 block of Spruce Street has been empty for 15 straight months. Its about time we FILL THIS FRONT!
           I'd like to tell you that this storefront has a long and storied history, but the fact is-- this storefront, despite being in an 150+ year old building, has only existed for about 34 years. The building its located in spent many years as a singular row-mansion... during the Civil War the U.S. Marine Corps Quartermaster lived here. Later on, it was known as the Goddard Residence and in the following decades was inhabited by a number of doctor's home-offices. 
         In the mid-20th Century, the neighborhood was one of the worst in the city, as hard as that is to believe, and the entire building became a flop house that held a shitload of tiny apartments. In about 1981, the building's current owner came along and installed larger apartments upstairs and turned the first floor into retail.
        This guy had one hell of a hard time turning that first floor into retail-- the ZBA didn't like any of the possibilities that had to do with food service-- the restaurant, health food store, and caterer all got denied. Even after that, the place became a revolving door of uses-- its hard to pin down them all but at least one was a Art Supply Store and despite all that ZBA stuff in the past there was a coffee shop there in the early 90s. In the mid 1990s, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles came along and held down the space for nearly 2 decades.

As Uhuru in 2011 via the Google Streetview Time Machine
       Uhuru is a store that fundraises for the African People's Education and Defense Fund-- they have locations all over the country. In February, 2014, Uhuru moved to the long-empty store building at the northwest corner of Broad and Parrish. Ever since, this space has been sitting empty and as depressing-looking as ever. Let's get it filled!
      This space is about 700 square feet with a nice big-ass display window. I'm told that the rent is $3600/mo + utilities but don't hold me to that. This place is on the mini-restaurant row where Vetri, Vallanni, Mercato, and even Toast beef up the area with awesome. Transit-wise, this is a sweet spot considering the Broad Street Line's concourse is a block away, as is the PATCO's. A bike lane runs right in front of the place. On top of all that, a whole dorm full of UArts students stands just down the street.
       What the fuck are you waiting for? Call the number on that window and tell them that you want to FILL THIS FRONT!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Butt-Fugly Building: Seaman's Church Institute

475 North 5th Street

             Jesus Christ, what an ugly piece of shit. I understand that its in the Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District so I'm not supposed to expect greatness, but if you're gonna obliterate an entire neighborhood to build industrial garbage with huge surface parking lots in between, at least try to make it look nice!
           Before this building was here, the southern part of the original version of Northern Liberties was an actual neighborhood. York Avenue, the diagonal main street of the district, ran right through the middle of where this building is now.

The area just north of this shitty building, mid 19th Century or so. Library Company of Phila via PhillyHistory.org
           Around 1970, the Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District was created in order to create a manufacturing/warehousing district in the middle of city and supposedly create all kinds of jobs for nearby residents. It was a failure in almost every respect-- urban planning-wise, revitalization-wise, manufacturing-wise... there's not much else to say about it.
          In 1983, the construction of crappy short industrial buildings there wasn't done yet. In that year, Altman Brothers Inc out of Glenside, PA proposed a 23,000 Sq Ft juggernaut of ugly called the East Callowhill Industrial Building (real creative). The unfortunate design was by Theodore Brandow of Brandow Design Associates.
         The facade appears to be that corduroy pants-looking cladding used on all of the worst buildings I've ever seen. The openings in the facade are big and round with some kind of brown stone trim. Its not visible in the pic above but the facade rounds out at the north and south corners. It was 1984, people. Even I have to give them some leeway for that.
         After the building was finished in 1984, its first tenant was COFCO Group, a.k.a. the Commercial Office Furniture Company. They eventually added to the building and installed a mezzanine/2nd floor office space. In 2002, they sold the place for $2.4 Million to the Seaman's Church Institute of Philadelphia, an ancient organization that deals with support of seafarer's and maritime-related crap. They started in Philly way back in 1843 in a goddamn floating chapel!
          Today, the Seaman's Church Institute shares the building with Color Reflections, a digital imaging company that printed out large images of a fish and some water to cover those big-ass round windows. I guess they didn't want any sun coming in and fucking their shit up.
            As ugly as this pile of shit is, I wish I could say it was the worst-looking building in the shitbag Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District. If you ever have a chance, take a walk around there and check out what a real urban planning mistake looks like up close. You can check out Silk City when you're done, but be careful to put the ugliness of the neighborhood out of your mind before macking on their incredible Silk Cakes.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Old-Ass Building: 320 Race Street

320 Race Street

            You've never even noticed this old bastard, have you? Well, its pretty dang cool. Check out its story at the Hidden City Daily! Also, there are still some spots open on this Saturday's Forgotten NORTH Broad Street Tour! Click here to sign up.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Update!! More Fronts Filled!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

          Hello, this is Robert Stack, and you are now reading this in my voice. Fill This Front has been an attempt by GroJLart, somewhat in vain, to identify chronically empty Center City storefronts and maybe bring enough attention to them to get them filled. Back in January, we updated with a bunch of amazing storefront rebirths-- and now there's more! Could Fill This Front be having some effect? That will have to remain an Unsolved Mystery. Play the Youtube video below for the appropriate background music.


        The old Stereo City spot now has a tenant! Johnny Manana's of East Falls is expanding out into the city with two new locations, one of which will be located at the circa 1924 Llewellyn's Drug Store. Good luck, its nice to see that part of Chestnut rise!


        The old Society Hill Furniture space has finally been filled! Though the new occupant might just be a Gallery leftover, they've managed to get a spot that hasn't been in use since 2008. Now all they have to do is remove the old Society Hill Furniture sign. Whatever-- Chestnut Beast can always use another friend.

From the day they opened.

          After six long years, the old General Accident space will become the Center City location of City Fitness. This is will be their 4th location, adding to their Northern Liberties, Grad Hospital, and South Philly jawns.


           After 13 years of disappointments, the old Warner Bros Studio Store space at the Shops at Liberty Place will finally get a permanent lessee! Its been recently reported that the huge spot will hold a Bloomingdale's Outlet! This is great news and another sign that Center City's retail potential is getting even more popular. Rumor has it that Bloomie's is looking for another larger space for a regular large format version somewhere in the city as well.


            The NYC blightlords that own the remains of the Hamilton and Diesinger Building have now finally put it up for sale. They are asking for a rather outlandish $2.15 Million for the single-story building with 2 small sealed-off upper floors, but I guess they are banking on the greatness of Chestnut Beast and the fact that the building faces both Chestnut and Sansom for someone to come along and buy it for that price. Don't be surprised if it ends up being a tear-down.

Shhhh! One of Philaphilia's clandestine rumor sources has informed me that not only has an offer been put in for the building, but that said offer is well above the asking price!!! More info incoming!!


             You've probably heard about this but we'll tell you anyway: Wawa will be opening a new and gigantic location at the Robinson's Luggage space at Broad and Walnut! Though some people new about it already, GroJLart was informed by a participant of my March 21st Forgotten Broad Street Tour that this was taking place. GroJLart tweeted about it later that day:

           That Monday, Michael Klein wrote about it and the whole goddamn city went wild! Countless news outlets carried the news while every area discussion board and comment section became the center of heated debate. Some were ecstatic that a new Wawa would be available so close to their homes and workplaces, seeing positivity in the fact that Wawa was making a triumphant return to Center City after declaring itself nearly fully suburban a few years ago (btw, the 11th and Arch Wawa is still closing) and that they were taking up a prominent storefront that's been empty.
           Others saw the news as wholly negative, and for a whole bunch of different reasons. Some said it was another nail in the Avenue of the Arts retail coffin, seeing as how Walgreen's came in two blocks away, FYE is closing, and so is Ruth's Chris Steak House. Other people were worried about the amazing ability Wawa has of attracting bums to its locations, perhaps thinking that a larger 24 hour location will attract more and/or larger bums. A whole other subset of detractors saw this as a negative because of Wawa's status as a chain and not an independent sustainable organic spelt flour puppy underwear boutique.
          Oh well-- Wawa is coming and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Might as well enjoy it while its there.

Other tidbits worth mentioning:

-The Walnut Nails space doesn't seem to be acting as storage for another store anymore. I know there was at least one 311 request about it. The building and the one next door are still up for sale as a package deal.

-The Champions space is actually up for lease now. Assuming you have $225,000/yr to burn, snap this shit up. Remember, the DNC is coming.

-Something new is coming to 1725 Chestnut and 1835 Arch, but I don't know what.

-Five Below is moving to somewhere near 15th and Chestnut.

-Lastly, construction seems to be in full swing at the Southside Cleaners & Shirt Laundry building.

           With all of this great news, let's not forget the Fronts that are still empty and haven't done shit since they were mentioned here. John C. Clark Legal Stationers is still sitting there doing nothing. The owner probably doesn't give shit about the place, its just one of his many beat-up properties in the area. Across the street, the Witherspoon Building space is still vacant as fuck. 833 Chestnut changed up the signage but is still up for lease and will soon be going on 5 years empty. The Sprucy Storefronts are looking even worse, but this permit hopefully explains why.
          Kaufmann's Event Hall is still sitting there looking like shit while its blightlord owner still works down the street. 13th and Spruce is still shamefully vacant as fuck despite its makeover. The Ashe Building is still sealed up. Mexican Post is still unable to fill up, now on its 13th empty month. The Thomas Lofts space on Market East is still vacant as fuck. The South Broad KFC is getting even worse looking while serving primarily as a surface parking lot. 31 South 2nd is an ongoingly-blighted piece of shit. The VOG spot is still a fog spot. 2108 Walnut is looking worse than ever and the retail still isn't available. Enough of this!
          For every empty lot, effed-up building, new development, or empty storefront, there's someone, somewhere, who knows the truth. Perhaps that someone is reading this. Perhaps... it's you. If you have any new or extra information relating to articles posted at Philaphilia, write to us at rhaandarite@gmail.com. You need not give your name.

"Now get the fuck out of here"
Programming note: Philaphilia will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks while GroJLart celebrates the fourth anniversary of the blog and some other stuff he can't tell you schlubs about. He'll probably write some crap on his Twitter once in awhile so keep track of that for the latest updates. Check Hidden City Philadelphia for more tour dates and watch out for a new blog post here about the upcoming all new North Broad Street Tour!!