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Spiga gives growing culinary hotspot Midtown Village an Italian dining option

Thanks to the work of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, Midtown Village is quickly becoming a dining destination. Earlier this year, we told you about their newest restaurant, Jamonera, which is a Spanish-style tapas bar on 13th St., just south of Chestnut. Now, this gastronomical blitz is extending to Locust St. in Midtown, as the casual Italian restaurant Spiga opened this past weekend. Spiga is co-owned by Anthony Masapollo, who is also know for Le Castagne in Rittenhouse and La Famiglia in Old City, and the executive chef is Brian Wilson.

Masapollo is elated to be a part of the Midtown Village community. “We sat outside El Vez, and I thought to myself, ‘this is where I want to be’,” says Masapollo. He adds that he loves the community feeling in Midtown. He made sure to join the Midtown Village Merchants Association last week. The partner is also planning on working with other businesses, such as the 12th St. Gym, to do outreach. Masapollo says that another perk of being in the neighborhood is that it connects Le Castagne and La Famiglia by providing a midpoint. 

Spiga, which translates to stalk or stem, can best be described as a casual Italian restaurant. Chef Wilson’s menu items include pasta, pizza, burgers, and steak, fish, and pork chop from the eatery’s two wood-burning grills. Masapollo is especially proud of the wood-fired grills. “It’s like cooking outdoors,” he says. For those with wheat allergies, gluten-free items are also available. Patrons are encouraged to share menu items. Spiga also has a bar on the premises, which serves up wine and cocktails. 

The restaurant is located at 1305 Locust St., which is convenient to PATCO, the Broad St. Subway, and a parking lot. Before Spiga, the location housed a few LGBT-themed lounges, the last of which was JR’s Lounge. Masapollo says he and his business partners had been looking to create Spiga for quite a while. He says they first set their sights on the Locust St. location last summer. 

Spiga seats 70 people between the main dining room and the bar. They are generally open until 10 PM on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, although they are closed on Mondays and close early on Sundays. In addition to Masapollo and Wilson, Skip DiMassa and Giuseppe Sena are co-owners. Entrees generally cost between $12 and $30, while some appetizers cost as little as $4. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Anthony Masapollo

Photo courtesy of Spiga

Frankford businesses get the chance to show off for those merely passing through

Frankford is an important gateway between Center City and Northeast Philadelphia, as it is home to the Frankford Transportation Center. But this doesn't help local businesses in Frankford, as travelers have little reason to hop off in a neighborhood that has suffered from its share of crime and blight. That's why the Frankford CDC is partnering with Aria Health to highlight shops along the Frankford Ave. commercial corridor and elsewhere in the neighborhood.

The Frankford CDC anticipates beginning its campaign in late-May, says Michelle Feldman, the commercial corridor manager at the CDC. Each quarter, four new businesses will set up shop inside the cafeteria of Aria Health's Frankford campus. Feldman says she has received interest "from a whole range of institutions and businesses" in participating. These businesses include Gilbert's Upholstery and Antiques, which has graced Frankford Ave. for more than 30 years, Frankford Friends School, Cramer's Uniforms, Mezalick Design Studio, and Denby's Sweet Sensations pastries.  

Feldman says that outreach to local businesses about the chance to be featured was done via e-mail and shop-to-shop canvassing. The latter was made much easier by the fact that Feldman is used to walking up and down Frankford Ave. and interacting with shopkeepers and employees as part of her role with the CDC. While she says the CDC focuses on businesses along the Avenue, some of the participating businesses are on Griscom St., Orthodox St., and elsewhere off of the main commercial corridor. "We're here to help all businesses," says Feldman.

Community leaders in Frankford are quick to laud Aria Health for allowing businesses to market themselves. Feldman says the idea for this campaign came from the realization that many Aria employees merely drove or walked past businesses on Frankford Ave. without actually going inside any of them. This is quite similar to the scads of El commuters who ride, drive, or walk through Frankford, but would probably have trouble naming even a few shops. The CDC hopes to generate interest in shopping and eating locally among Aria employees through this. 

Along with the marketing campaign for local businesses, there are a few other exciting things happening in Frankford. Feldman mentions the Mural Arts Program recently held two public meetings to determine the designs of the upcoming "Imagining Frankford" murals by artist Cesar Viveros. Also, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez recently spearheaded a grant for targeted facade improvements on the 4600-block of Frankford Ave. Finally, the CDC inaugurated a new computer lab for the community, which was made possible by Philly Rising and Temple University's Computer Recycling Center

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Michelle Feldman, Frankford CDC

Neighborhood Foods' CSA delivers West Philly's freshest to rest of region

Greater Philadelphia is rapidly becoming more of a hub for urban farming and community-supported agriculture (CSA). Just look at the recently expanded Mariposa food co-op on Baltimore Ave., the active Kensington Community Food Co-op, and the Creekside Co-op groundbreaking in Montgomery County. Another organization that hasn’t received as much publicity is West Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Foods, which is transitioning from just an urban farm to a CSA and is teaming up with other local food venders at Rittenhouse Square.

Neighborhood Foods will be using three different sites in West Philadelphia this year to cultivate fresh food. The main site is Polselli Farm, a two-thirds acre lot at 53rd and Wyalusing at which the group has been farming snce 2010, according to Dylan Baird, the business manager. He adds that his organization annexed two smaller farm sites last year, and will be growing from them starting this year. One site is the popular Walnut Hill Farm, which thrives in the shadows of SEPTA's 46th St. El stop. 

Baird is excited to announce that his urban farm will also feature a CSA this year, which he claims is the city’s first urban farm-based CSA. Members of this CSA will enjoy locally-cultivated fruits, vegetables, and grains, with all proceeds being returned to Haddington, Walnut Hill, and other sections of West Philly. According to Baird, the CSA will run for 22 weeks from the middle of May to October, and more include very affordable prices. Neighborhood Foods is currently looking for members.  

The CSA is now working with other local food sellers at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market every Saturday. "We are broadening beyond just urban farmed produce and we will be incorporating all kinds of Philly produced products," says Baird. Some examples of this include canned goods from South Philly’s Green Aisle Grocery, bread from West Philly’s Four Worlds Bakery, and jellies from Fifth of a Farm Jams

Proceeds from the Rittenhouse stand enable Neighborhood Foods to continue to grow and sell fresh food at a steep discount in West Philly. "Our business model is such that we sell our food at a premium around the city so that we can subsidize the price of food at our community farmers market as well as our community programs," says Baird.  

Neighborhood Foods is a product of The Enterprise Center CDC and Urban Tree Connection, and features produce that is grown naturally and without chemicals. Baird says that the urban farm benefits from a large local population of senior citizens, who understand the value of fresh vegetables from their early years in the South. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dylan Baird, Neighborhood Foods

Photo courtesy Neighborhood Foods     

A 10-pin workout: Combination Sweat gym-BYOB bowling alley coming to East Falls

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to knock down pins and lose pounds at the same time? If so, you might want to head over to East Falls starting next month. This is when Sweat Fitness will open their first fitness center and BYOB bowling alley in One Falls Center on Henry Ave. This will soon be Philadelphia’s first combination gym and bowling alley and Sweat Fitness’ 10th location in the city and its suburbs. It will be called Sweat Fitness and Frames.

Sweat Fitness hopes to intertwine bowling and working out, according to Scott Caplan, the owner of the gym. To do this, Caplan plans to allow members who use any Sweat gym to bowl for free during off-peak hours, which fall on weekdays in the bowling sphere. The facility will feature 10 bowling lanes with room for private parties. Exercisers can unwind not just from a round of bowling, but also with a drink. Indeed, unlike many bowling alleys, Sweat Fitness and Frames will be BYOB.

While bowling is a unique bedfellow to fitness, Caplan previously owned the Stripes bowling alley at 40th and Locust Sts. in West Philly. Stripes closed in April 2010, but Caplan’s affinity for bowling did not go away. Caplan explains that bowling helps “solidify” relationships, which is important because “fitness is a very social business.” 

Caplan hopes that Fitness and Frames will become an integral part of the East Falls community. For one thing, Sweat will take advantage of a free shuttle that carries Philadelphia University students between their school and housing around One Falls Center. He’s also encountered strong support for the gym alley among the East Falls Development Corporation (EFDC) and other community groups. “So far they’ve been very happy to have us,” says Caplan, who adds that Sweat has become a “focal point” in other communities. 

If Sweat Fitness and Frames proves successful, the gym may open additional bowling fitness centers in the future. Caplan divulges that Sweat is looking to open a few more fitness facilities in the Delaware Valley in 2013, although no word yet if they’ll offer bowling.  

If you’re interested in joining Sweat’s upcoming East Falls location, Caplan says there are still around a hundred pre-sale membership slots available. While the owner can’t give an exact date as to when Sweat Fitness and Frames will open, he says it will likely be in late-April. This means only a month until you can enjoy a vigorous work-out, a round of bowling, and a frosty drink in one location.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Scott Caplan, Sweat Fitness  

Illustration Courtesy of Sweat Fitness

Greene Street Consignment to open its seventh location in Chestnut Hill

Greene Street Consignment has been a fixture among those looking to purchase designer clothing labels at cheap prices. So much so that they have branched out from their original location on South Street and opened six locations, ranging from Princeton to West Chester. It’s soon to be seven locations, as Greene Street will become the latest business to set up shop along Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill by the end of the month.

The consignment store will open on the 8500-block of Germantown Ave., near Penzeys Spices, The Paperia gift store, and Chestnut Hill West Station. It wasn’t hard for Greene Street to decide to open in the Northwest Philly enclave.

"Chestnut Hill is such a great community of families, shops and new shops that are opening,” says Casey Drucquer, a marketing director at the consignment shop. Drucquer quickly adds that Greene Street’s owner recently moved back to Chestnut Hill herself.

While Greene Street Consignment is a used clothing store, it’s one with exacting standards. Drucquer reports that her store won’t accept any articles of clothing that are older than two years, and demands that everything sold be in immaculate condition. The store carries adult’s clothing in every size from small to extra large. Drucquer says that the store typically offers Gap, Gucci, Prada, and Anthropologie clothes. For those looking to sell clothes, Greene Street doesn’t require appointments and rewards a 40% commission on items that are sold.  

Drucquer emphasizes that a portion of Greene St.’s proceeds go to a good cause. As a matter of fact, the owner of the store's sister recently founded a fourteen-acre farm in Chester County, called the Greene Street Animal Rescue, dedicated to sick pets.

"Since the opening a few months ago, they have taken in eleven dogs which normally would have been euthanized,” she says. Part of the consignment shop’s profit goes to this, and the store also solicits tax-deductible donations. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Casey Drucquer, Greene St. Consignment  

Photo courtesy of Greene Street Consignment 

NextFab Studio expands to massive former ironwork shop on Washington Ave. on heels of growth

It is fitting that the upcoming expansion of NextFab Studio, the two year-old "gym for innovators" that features digital fabrication tools and the opportunity for most anyone to create most anything, will bring it to a new flagship location at a former custom ironwork shop run by old-world craftsmen.

NextFab announced last week it will be growing in a big way from its original space in the University City Science Center at 3711 Market Street, where it has doubled membership in the last six months and tripled revenue between 2010 and 2011.

And inside its new facility, expected to open by early July, NextFab2 will look to create the latest edition of the creative economy, just like when slabs of iron were being shaped decades ago at the new site at 2025 Washington Ave.

"As our members increase in number and skill and the reputation of our design, engineering and custom fabrication services has grown, an increasing number of members and clients want to take on projects that fall outside of that size range, or which need more privacy or more intense around-the-clock effort," says NextFab president and founder Evan Malone.

Indeed, the new facility in Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital should provide ample space: 21,000 square feet of equipment, expert staff, classes, workshops and accessible design, engineering and custom fabrication services.

Media-based architecture and design firm inHabit has reconfigured the building, which will provide private studios with 24/7 access, 14-foot ceilings, CNC water-jet cutter, CNC machining center, CNC router, more advanced 3D printers and a chemistry and micro-fabrication lab.

According to Malone, NextFab2 will have the layout and space for the big tools necessary for massive projects. There will be drive-in loading/unloading, a forklift and crane, a vehicle lift and facilities for car and motorcycle customization and electric-fuel conversion. There are also plenty of lighter touches, like a street-level cafe, space for exhibition and sales of products and art, and dedicated classroom spaces.

NextFab has come a long way in a short time. Revenue in 2011 was almost $500,000 with a membership that numbers 150. Full-time teaching and consulting staff has more than doubled to 17 professional artists, engineers and designers. Classes, of which there are 30 and range from Digital Embroidery to using a CNC Plasma Cutter, often fill up a month in advance.

"Our members are now successfully selling book scanners, laser-cut home decor and fashion products, custom speakers and more that they make at NextFab," says Malone.

Part of NextFab's aim is to reduce the learning curve associated with digital fabrication and foster an environment of innovation that transcends culture and education backgrounds.

"In traditional mass production you build an expensive factory to cheaply make millions of identical products," says Malone. "Digital Fabrication is an economic game changer because each thing you make can be unique for the cost of changing the picture on the computer screen."

Memberships will be available at the current rate until May 1, when rates will go up to help fund the expansion.

Source: Evan Malone, NextFab Studio
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Liberty Bike Share builds support, strategy to introduce long-awaited bike sharing program

What do New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, Spartanburg SC, and Hollywood FL all have in common? Hopefully you’ll have an answer by the time I’m finished with this sentence. If you don’t, these are all East Coast cities that offer bike sharing. Notice that Philadelphia is not in there. With this in mind, a team from the University of Pennsylvania is looking to put our city on par with the likes of Spartanburg by establishing Liberty Bike Share, which aims to bring bike sharing to Center City, University City, South Philly, and the Temple University-area.

Liberty Bike Share is the product of three Masters degree candidates at UPenn who closely analyzed the 2010 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) “Philadelphia Bike Share Concept Study,” says Dylan Hayden, who’s helping to organize the bike share concept. Hayden says Liberty is hoping to make 2,500-2,700 bicycles available to be shared at a cost of abougt $15 million. He adds that Liberty has the support of the Center City District and certain members of City Council. At this point, his group is waiting for the city’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) to issue an RFP. 

As is usually the case, the cost of setting up operations is one of the biggest challenges Liberty faces. Hayden emphasizes that his team is looking to solicit pledges from local hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and other private sector entities willing to chip in. He does admit that securing financial contributions in the Philadelphia-area can be “like squeezing a turnip.” On this note, MOTU has identified the up-front costs of bike sharing as one of its biggest worries. 

Hayden says his team hopes to implement Liberty Bike Share in two phases, with the first concentrating on Center and University Cities and the second extending the program up to Temple. Liberty has two companies in mind, Alta and B-Cycle, to operate the bike share. Alta operates the bike sharing programs in New York City, D.C., and Boston, while B-Cycle is responsible for bike sharing in Spartanburg, Chicago, Denver, and elsewhere. Hayden envisions charging members an annual fee of anywhere between $75 and $90.

The UPenn team hopes Liberty Bike Share will complement mass transit in Philadelphia. “We’re looking to deal with last-mile issues,” says Hayden, who’s talking about the distance between a transit or rail stop and someone’s final destination. Indeed, the Penn senior envisions a future where someone can (as an example) take a train to Market East Station and share a bike to get to their final destination. Hayden hopes to work with SEPTA to incorporate bike sharing in with their upcoming New Payment Technology.

Locally, only one borough offers bike sharing. That would be Pottstown, a borough with around 22,000 people in Western Montgomery County. Bike Pottstown, Pottstown's bike sharing program, is run by Zagster, which launched its bike sharing consultancy in Philadelphia under the name CityRyde before moving to Cambridge, Mass last year. Bike Pottstown is a free bike share, which has filled the streets of the borough with 15 eye-snatching yellow bicycles. 

Hayden is unequivocal about the benefits of bike sharing. “Bike sharing is a policy Swiss army knife,” he says. By this, he means it ameliorates a host of policy issues, including healthcare, sustainability, and mobility. He also says that the city already has much of the infrastructure in place to support bike sharing, including the 215 miles of bike lanes he cites. Bike sharing would provide Philadelphia an opportunity to catch up to other American cities, large and small.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dylan Hayden, Liberty Bike Share

New Manayunk coworking space for woodworkers is first of its kind in Philadelphia

The Delaware Valley's first coworking space for woodworkers opened earlier this month, and is already proving quite popular. Philadelphia Woodworks is a membership-based co-working arena and educational facility across from the Ivy Ridge train station on Umbria St. in Manayunk. According to Emily Duncan, the business manager at Woodworks, the facility already boasts twenty members, sixteen of which are certified in woodworking. Along with coworking, Duncan says classes are expected to begin in a few weeks.

Philadelphia Woodworks emphasizes that anyone can become a member, as long as they don't have an inordinate fear of splinters. The center is indeed welcoming to professionals and novices alike. "You can do it and we can help you," coaxes Duncan. This is one reason why the workshop will hold classes. Duncan continues by saying members and other people interested in woodworking can even suggest classes. Michael Vogel, who's the founder and president of Woodworks, also emphasizes that classes are run with their students' schedules in mind.  

The woodworker's paradise is concentrating on partnering with local businesses that work with wood. For example, Duncan gives a shout-out to Provenance Architectural Salvage in Northern Liberties, who she says will stock re-used materials. Vogel also points out that some classes will be affiliated with other relevant organizations, including the Center for Art in Wood and the Wharton-Esherick Museum in Valley Forge. The Independence Seaport Museum has even expressed interest in helping with education at Philadelphia Woodworks.

This "gym for woodworking," as Vogel puts it, has all of the latest woodworking tools throughout the 6,600-square foot facility. 4,500 of which are devoted to shop space, which includes professional industrial grade power and hand tools; milling machines that can smooth wood; sanding, shaping, and edging stations; dust collection; and air filters. In addition, the space comes equipped with Golden Boy, the shop manager's adorable pug, who can be found strutting around the shop. Finally, Duncan adds that there will be plentiful locker and cubby space for tool storage.

Vogel and Duncan both stress that the woodworking space is truly unique for Southeastern Pennsylvania. Duncan says the closest place of its kind is all the way down in Rockville, Md. The next closest is a long ride north in Connecticut. Because of this, Vogel chose the location because of its convenience to the entire region. "You can get from Cherry Hill to West Chester in a half hour [depending on traffic] because of our proximity to 76," he mentions. As Duncan points out, not only is it easily accessible by car, but it's also in propinquity to the Schuylkill River Bike Trail and the train.

To complement the shop, Philadelphia Woodworks also features a member's lounge, with a kitchen, TVs, and a "clubhouse atmosphere," says Duncan. There is also a lumberyard and sheetwood store on site. If you're interested in becoming a member, you'll want to act fast as space is filling up. There's currently no cap on the amount of members that can be accommodated, but Duncan and Vogel agree they'll eventually have to find one. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Michael Vogel, Emily Duncan, and Golden Boy the pug, Philadelphia Woodworks

Not much snow, but a revived historic lodge at Montco's Spring Mountain

A half-century ago, Schwenksville was considered a destinations for vacationers from the Delaware Valley, along with the Jersey Shore and Poconos, thanks to Spring Mountain skiing and the Perkiomen Creek. Quite a bit has changed since then, as Schwenksville isn't exactly a household name any longer. However, Rick and Gayle Buckman, co-owners of Schwenksville's Spring Mountain ski resort, are hoping to revive the area's appeal to visitors. To do this, they recently renovated and re-opened the historic Woodside Lodge, formerly known as the Woodside Inn and Woodside Manor. 

The Woodside Lodge began accepting visitors again at the end of January. According to Gayle Buckman, the inn features mostly two-room suites with fireplaces. The Buckmans are clearly proud of their lodge's legacy, which dates to 1923. In the midst of the $1.5 million renovation, "we were able to uncover some of the historical elements,” says Gayle Buckman. This includes the building's porches, which, with the exception of one, were opened up like they were decades ago. Buckman is also proud that she was able to preserve the inn's original staircase, although it had to be enclosed due to the fire code.

Spring Mountain was also able to maintain most of the wooden floors on the first level of the lodge. The Buckmans added transoms, which are wooden crosspieces separating doors from windows above them, to add to the historic mystique of the lodge. After all, transoms were prevalent before air conditioning was commonly used because they facilitated cross ventilation. For those of you visiting Spring Mountain during the summer, there's no need to fret, as the lodge is air-conditioned. 

The Buckmans believe the re-opening of Woodside means great things are in store for Spring Mountain. The lodge makes the mountain "a destination,” points out Gayle Buckman. During the winter (assuming it's cold enough), visitors can enjoy a day crammed with skiing and a night relaxing at the Woodside. During the summer, tourists can take advantage of the mountain's one-of-a-kind zip-line canopy, which Buckman says attracts people from across the country, and retire to the inn. The inn is also convenient to the Perkiomen Trail, which is popular among bicyclists.

The lodge also features the Buckman Tavern, whose chef Michael Kenney has experience as Will Smith's personal chef and as a cook at the Four Seasons Hotel. Currently, the tavern is open for dinner, and serves American comfort food. Entree prices range from $15 to $26. Along with entrees, the tavern serves soup, salads, "starters,” and sandwiches. It is generally open between 4:30 and 9 p.m., with later hours on Thursdays and weekends. Kenney also prepares breakfast for overnight guests. 

Woodside's re-opening open house in late January proved to be a big hit. Gayle Buckman says between 800 and 1,000 people showed up to christen the historic lodge. Among them were the grandson of the original architect and the co-owner of the Woodside in the 1940s, the latter of which is now in her late 90s. Needless to say, there were plenty of pictures of the inn and manor from when Schwenksville enjoyed its heyday. With the lodge re-opened, the Buckmans hope for similar pictures in the future.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Gayle and Rick Buckman

Roxborough emerging from Northwest's shadows with new businesses, preservation and improvements

For decades, Manayunk and Chestnut Hill have dominated Northwest Philly’s business development scene with their vibrant commercial corridors. However, a new player is emerging as a destination for shoppers and diners: Roxborough, and the burgeoning Ridge Ave. corridor, is seeing an influx of new businesses, streetscape improvements, and historic preservation in its surrounding neighborhood.

The Roxborough Development Corporation (RDC) has played a vital role in the resurgence of Ridge Ave. James Calamia, the operations manager at the RDC, is excited about the new businesses that are slated to open this year. Most notably, the popular beer distributor and gourmet deli The Foodery just purchased the RDC’s erstwhile office on the avenue west of Green Lane. Calamia is proud to report that this will be The Foodery’s largest location yet. He says the current drawings, which are always subject to change, have fridges filled with beer wrapping around the entire store and plentiful seating.

While The Foodery won’t open until May at the earliest, a number of new businesses have opened in the past three months or will be opening shortly. Calamia says that Blackbird House Antiques at Ridge and Shawmont, Giovanni’s Child Care at Ridge and Leverington, and TD Bank at Ridge and Hermit have all opened in the past three months. Another new business, Kitch-N Collectibles, is planning on opening very shortly across from RDC’s old office. Kitch-N Collectibles is actually re-locating to Roxborough from Manayunk.

While business development is a massive part of the equation in Roxborough, the RDC points out that the neighborhood is also benefitting from historic preservation efforts. Calamia relays that the community was just awarded a $30,000 grant from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia to rehabilitate “gothic houses” on Lyceum Ave. and Green Ln, only a block away from the Ridge corridor. This is a means to “help build and grow Roxborough’s unique persona,” says Calamia.

Roxborough is also benefiting from a $2.2 million grant from the city to make streetscape enhancements along Ridge Ave. According to Calamia, this will result in smoother sidewalks, better lighting, and new planters. He believes these improvements will lead to a “new foundation for Roxborough and the whole area.” “It will make the area more walkable and improve aesthetics,” Calamia adds. Depending on weather conditions, he anticipates the streetscape enhancements will be finished during the summer.

The RDC alludes to more exciting development along Ridge Ave. in the years to come. Calamia says Planet Fitness has expressed interest in the shuttered Golden Chrysler dealership, which would be the discount gym’s first location in Northwest Philadelphia. He also says the RDC might be looking to add a park around the intersection of Ridge and Leverington Aves. Finally, the operations director intimates that the former bank at Ridge and Green Ln. might soon be re-developed. He says someone just purchased the historic building, which is known for the sculpted owls on its roof. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: James Calamia, Roxborough Development Corporation

A sip and taste of Spain comes to 13th St. as dynamic duo grows Midtown Village vision

Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have just expanded their empire on 13th St. in Midtown Village with the opening of Jamonera, a Spanish tapas bar, this past Sunday. Jamonera, located between Chestnut and Sansom Sts., will serve small and medium-sized plates, wines, and sherries, inspired by the duo's recent travel to Southern Spain. The restaurant will be open for dinner and post-dinner patrons.  

The opening of Jamonera at 105 S. 13th St. solidifies Turney and Safran's imprint on the entire block. They began with a home and gift store called Open House at 107 S. 13th back in 2002. Since then, their passion for the street and Midtown Village has gushed forward with the opening of five other stores and restaurants. At 101, there's Grocery market and catering, while 106 houses Lolita, a Mexican dining option. 108 is home to Verde, a jewelry and gift shop, while 110 finds Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean bar.

Jamonera offers a wealth of culinary options, with all the flair you'd expect from Spain. "Guests can expect to enjoy banderillas of olives, boquerones and guindilla peppers, and crispy calasparra rice with heirloom pumpkin," says Valerie Safran. Other menu items include lamb skewers and cucina. Safran says the tapas plates run from $4 to $36, and are all meant to be shared. 

While the food options are sure to elicit salivation, the drink options are equally impressive. "We've selected a group of wines that we believe are the best expression of Spain's terroir, with earthy reds and bright, crisp whites ideally suited to sipping alongside the varied flavors of the food," describes Safran. Along with the wines, Jamonera serves an enviable selection of sherries.

Both Safran and Turney bemoan the former lack of a genuine tapas restaurant in Midtown Village. They highlight the rich flavors and relaxed atmosphere that accompany tapas restaurants. To best mimic the vibe of a Spanish tapas bar, the entrepreneurs teamed up with Urban Space Development. Together, they decided to festoon the tapas bar with Rioja-colored wood and reddish lighting. They also installed old-fashioned mirrors and intricate wood chandeliers.

The owners are proud of all the work they've done for their block of 13th St. "We love that we've helped transform 13th Street into a destination for the city," says Safran. She points out that the neighborhood was deemed far from appealing by many when she and her business partner opened their first business, but has come a long way. The entrepreneurs' love of their street is palpable on-line as well, where they run a website called "We love 13th Street," which helps link their panoply of stores and restaurants.

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, Jamonera

Metro Impact Homes is building up Southwest Center City

Whether you call the neighborhood Southwest Center City, Graduate Hospital, or G-Ho, one thing that’s not debatable about the blocks immediately to the southwest of Center City is the amount of new and rehabilitated housing that has sprung up in the past few years. Metro Impact Homes is a large reason why this neighborhood’s housing stock has improved. Metro Impact has been building rowhouses and condominiums between 16th St. and Grays Ferry Ave and between Fitzwater and Kimball Sts. for the past few years, and is getting bolder with its scope.

One intriguing project that Metro Impact is currently working on is Montrose Court around 25th and Grays Ferry, mentions Steve Shklovsky, the head of the development firm. Here, Metro is hoping to construct 11 luxury rowhomes with roof decks, green roofs, and garages. "My goal is to transform what is now the worst block in the neighborhood into one of the nicest," says Shklovsky. As development is rarely easy, some neighbors are protesting because of the proposed size of the rowhome yards. This means Metro will need a zoning hearing in a couple of weeks. The new development should start around $400,000.

Another planned Metro Impact development that’s brewing a lot of buzz is the opulent Fitz4 on Fitzwater St. betwixt 16th and 17th. Like the previous development, Fitz4 will feature roof decks and garages, and will be built on what currently is a forsaken intersection. According to Shklovsky, A total of four homes are being drawn up for Fitz4, with two being corner properties. The homes will be far from cheap, as prices are expected to begin in the $700,000 range.

Metro’s proposed new development should only serve to add an exclamation point to the firm’s existing development in Southwest Center City. One of Shklovsky’s proudest developments is at 1910 Christian St., which is a six-unit condominium development. What makes the developer so proud? "The south side of that block is one of the only in the (neighborhood) which had all matching facades and heights," exclaims Shklovsky. Perhaps it was this attention to blending in with the rest of the block that resulted in every condo unit being put under contract within 30 days.

Shklovsky is very content with developing in Southwest Center City, even though his office is in Southampton, Bucks County. He cites the neighborhood’s proximal location to the Rittenhouse Square area and University City as a reason why he’s so enamored. He quickly adds that many of his buyers are doctors and medical students who can appreciate the convenient access to the Penn health system. His primary complaint about the neighborhood is that there isn’t enough commercial space. The developer is sure to mention that he hopes to eventually move his offices to the city. 

Source: Steve Shklovsky, Metro Impact Homes
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Reading Terminal Market expansion will include more vendors, demo kitchen and event space

Philadelphia's most notable farmer's market will get a little bigger in 2012. Come April, the Reading Terminal Market will be ready to unveil space for four to five new vendors, a demonstration kitchen, multi-functional event space, and expanded restrooms, according to general manager Paul Steinke. The expansion will catapult the back of the market, known as the eastern end, into the spotlight. It comes on the heels of the opening of Molly Malloy's, which has proven a popular gastropub.  

Steinke is quick to point out the cornerstone of the soon-to-be expanded market, the Rick Nichols Room. This event space "will feature a permanent, museum-quality exhibit on the history of the market," promises Steinke. The space is named in honor of recently retired local food critic Rick Nichols, who wrote about all things edible in Philadelphia for 15 years. The space is being created in conjunction with the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. The space will double as a meeting and party zone, available for rental by groups.

Reading Terminal currently has no shortage of applications from businesses that want to take advantage of the new vendor space, assures Steinke. He says the market is looking for businesses that complement the "culinary and ethnic diversity." It looks like no decision has yet been made on new vendors. The market also promises to double its restroom capacity and provide cooking classes and chef presentations when it finalizes its expansion.

One of the greatest challenges in expanding the market has been maintaining the building's historical character. To make sure this happens, the market put the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia's Eugene LeFevre in charge of the renovation. LeFevre has specialized in renovating classic buildings, including the Mellon Independence Center and the Morris House Hotel, for 25 years. Steinke underscores the added difficulty of working on a historic building. "You never know what you're going to find when you work on a historic building," he says.

While the current expansion of the eastern portion of the market is indeed exciting, many would like to see the Reading Terminal expand on the other side of Filbert St. Steinke recognizes this, and says the market has been in talks about taking over the property across Filbert. The property is owned by the city's Redevelopment Authority. Despite these talks, there are no solid plans for the market to venture across the street at this time. It looks like the Reading Terminal Market will have to conduct one expansion at a time. From now until April, that expansion will be the eastern wing.  

Source: Paul Steinke, Reading Terminal Market
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Brewerytown continues to be a hot neighborhood for new businesses

After a frenetic year-and-a half that has witnessed the emergence of twelve new businesses in Brewerytown, Girard Ave. is expected to get some more fresh additions. Businesses planning to open in Brewerytown include a taqueria, a pop-up art, jewelry, and clothing store, and a Bottom Dollar food market. 

According to David Waxman and Aaron Smith of Brewerytown developer MM Partners, plans to build a Bottom Dollar food market in front of Brewerytown Square at 31st and Girard are generating the most buzz. While the site remains an empty lot, Waxman, a co-managing partner at MM Partners, says work on the site should start soon. The project was first presented months ago, but has been slowed by the location‘s history as a brownfield. Bottom Dollar is looking to build an 18,279 sq. ft. market with 94 parking spots. 

The next shop to open will be the pop-up store Amazulu, which will be ready for business this holiday season. Smith, the director of property management at MM, sings the praise of Amazulu, which will sell a panoply of African influenced items. These crafts include clothes and jewelry for all ages and sexes, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and even masks. Amazulu currently has a location in the Reading Terminal Market. 

Another welcome addition to Brewerytown will be a taqueria. Smith says that the Mexican restaurant will be "very authentic, relatively affordable, and healthy." Smith and Waxman say this taqueria will serve as a contrast to some of the other restaurants on Girard Ave. in terms of offering a scrumptious and healthy dining option. MM Partners predicts that this taqueria will open during late winter or spring next year.

While locals are largely happy with the recent influx of new businesses, some still hope for more. Waxman and Smith say a neighborhood named Brewerytown really deserves a brewery. Specifically, MM Partners would like to see a nanobrewery make its home around Girard Ave. To back up their words, the developers say they’d be willing to help extensively with zoning and other issues.  

Sources: David Waxman and Aaron Smith, MM Partners
Writer: Andy Sharpe

From housedresses to seafood to lamps, Chestnut Hill sees a rash of new business development

After seeing a good deal of businesses close, and an influx of banks open, it looks like the Chestnut Hill section of the city is back on the road to retail and dining diversity. In fact, a number of new businesses have opened along Germantown Ave. so far this year, with many more planned. It even looks like the crown jewel at the top of the Hill, the former Borders Books, might soon open a new chapter.

Eileen Reilly, the Chestnut Hill Business Association's retail recruiter, is pumped to talk about the new businesses opening along the avenue. Earth, an eclectic store that sells garden-infused jewelry, candles, and even garden supplies tilled the soil when it opened in March. The owner of Earth, Doug Reinke, proceeded to open Linen, a bedding, bath and baby supply store in May. Not satisfied, Reinke opened a rug and lighting store called "Room Service" earlier this month, a few blocks away from the other two stores.

Reilly also boasts about a couple of "pop-up" stores that will set up shop at the old Magarity Ford dealership in time for the holiday season. One such store is Fete Noel, which is a one-of-a-kind store that vends everything from antique furniture, to toys, to prestigious jewelry, to photography. This "pop-up" store will be open for six days, beginning on Nov. 10th. Another "pop-up" store is Bali to Bala, which returns after an ultra successful debut in Chestnut Hill last year. Bali to Bala features Indonesian arts and crafts, and aims to spread awareness about Indonesian culture.

Yet, according to Reilly the list of stores and restaurants slated to open in Chestnut Hill in the next few months is even more comprehensive. The Iron Hill Brewery is currently being built where clothing stores used to be, with Reilly saying it will open right before New Year's Eve. With this in mind, the big story in Chestnut Hill will continue to be the local independent stores that are opening. A woman's apparel store called Indigo Schuy is expected to open within the next few months, while a locally themed fine dining establishment called Heirloom will begin serving up duck, seafood, and other items.

What many are anxiously looking at is the old Border's Books site at the intersection of Germantown Ave. and Bethlehem Pike. Reilly reveals that a deal is close to being reached between the seller and a client of this parcel, and that it will have an institutional use. Greg Welsh, the owner of the Chestnut Grill and a loud voice on the Business Association, went a step further and said the building will soon become a childcare center for Children of America.

For residents, shoppers, and diners in Chestnut Hill, this new flurry of business openings is surely welcome news. This is remarkable because of the lower sales tax in the surrounding suburbs. "Even though the climate is tough, the energy has changed," says Eileen Reilly. "We're on entrepreneurs brainwaves." While main streets across the region are still mired in a recession, Chestnut Hill's main street seems to have emerged from it.

Source: Eileen Reilly, Chestnut Hill Business Association
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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