Lower North Philadelphia Views, 76-100+

Xmas day restaurant

There were a literal dozen Chinese takeout restaurants in a one-half mile radius from where I lived. For the uninitiated, these shotgun restaurants comprise a small foyer with a cashier, small grocery, and kitchen, behind bullet proof glass.



Pontiac excitement

This Grand Prix is a rare neighborhood specimen of a classic car surviving the streets.





There is an unforgivable amount of trash on the streets. It accumulates where it is first trapped by grass or other obstacles. An abandoned building in the background is one of many exemplary brick carriage houses commonly found in the north side.





Pay phone box on a extinct gas station lot still hosting advertisements. This block is the site of several particularly noteworthy small warehouse rehabilitation and new construction projects, some complete, others underway, and on the drawing board.




All Stars

Broken glass, ditched sneakers, and piles of leaves. Things just get left as they lay.




Morning Light

These six vacant lots are a playground, parking lot, stray animal refuge, and dump. A new construction and lot for sale hold promise for change: improvement potential.




Better is yet to come

Investor found. A few consecutive blocks along this street have sizable buildings left vacant and deteriorating but drawing attention for rehabilitation.





Tagged for ownership. Abandoned, kind of, this building is in use, despite attempts to keep it off limits.




At the museum

A mile west, toward the Schuylkill River, a collection of museums and the surrounding neighborhood stand in stark contrast to the Lower North.




Signs & Tags





Available for use across Philadelphia, local access rental bikes are usually pretty well used.




Wrought iron fence

New but replicating some of the older iron work in the neighborhood, this gate closes off a childcare playground serving the community.





The impact of Temple University’s growth, and management of student housing, cannot be overstated. It has fueled a high density of new buildings and renovations, block by block in most blighted areas, spreading west and south toward Ridge.





Stop-and-go is a common feature of construction, particularly for small scale projects. This building remained as is for several months.




Moderne Farrah School

One of the roughly 10% of area schools sold in the past five years. This one is now an apartment building for entry level professionals.




Door art

This entry way was preemptively painted and surprisingly was an effective deterrent against additional tagging.





A major rehabilitation of this nearly block-size (local) icon. A long view of its history reveals that it has been a white elephant, almost since its inception. In the current economic optimism, it is being given another chance.





Dismal, perhaps, but only a few doors down in either direction are $1M homes and condominiums. Vacant, and deteriorating, it is owned by a non-resident with local business interests, since the mid 1990s.




Moderne design

Neighborhood elementary school, still in use, built in the early 20th century, when the city and neighborhood were growing, 10-20% between each decennial census.




Store front

This storefront is in a more dilapidated section within an already run down area along Ridge. Outright public investment – not just tax abatement – is impending and may help spur private development.




Bell Telephone adaptive reuse

Vacant for decades, this building was converted into entry-level condominiums, occupied by mostly young, white professionals, oriented toward the Fairmont neighborhood.




Doorways, too

Results of reinvestment in single-family and multi-unit dwellings, between Ridge and Fairmont. A stark contrast to large swaths of housing between Girard and Cecil B Moore.




Boarding School

Occupying more than square quarter mile, largely separated from its surroundings by a 10-foot high rock, this bit of fence allows views in to the Girard College. Funded in perpetuity by an endowment, the “college” is a preparatory school for “academically capable students.”




Nikes & narrow lane

Hundreds of streets like this one, only a block long, with row homes end-to-end. This one, one-third boarded up and/or without roofs, a third occupied, and a third now under renovation – potentially, affordable, two-story, single-family homes.




Local retail

One of the few retail and service shops in area, the bike shop keeps busy provisioning coffee &c, on the side.




New units and tag

Electric meter boxes like this are a new multi-unit badge, you can walk down some blocks and count off by threes, into the 30s. Tags enable a sort of dendrochronology.




In process

This multi-unit building – a 20+ units, as opposed to three, six, or nine, is one of about a dozen filling in vacant lots just off of Girard, in areas lacking any kind of neighborhood sensibilities.




Leaving Philadelphia behind for opportunities elsewhere, I must admit to being rather smitten with its rougher edges and beauty.


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