Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fill This Front: General Accident

400-414 Walnut Street

            This beautiful bitch-bastard of a storefront has been empty for almost six years! What the hell could be wrong with it? Great location, huge size available, divisible all you want, foot traffic, transit, tourists, you name it! It even has giant medallions along the top! Well, guess what? Its been off the market now for 6 months, so even if you suddenly want it and call that phone number on the signs, you can't have it!!
            From what I can tell, this retail space was just the ground floor office floor of the second General Accident Insurance Company building (400-02 was built 1906, 404-414 is a 1924 addition), which later became the Green Tree aka Mutual Assistance Company. The building became residential in 2003 (despite efforts by the Society Hill Civic to shut it down over parking) and was named after old Green Tree company. It was then that the 5,043 square foot ground floor space was made retail. It became spa and fitness center called Li'Joanna but closed as a similar place called Ananda.

As Ananda in 2007. Thanks again, Google Streetview time machine!
                   Ananda closed on January 31, 2009, meaning that this space has been empty for almost as long as it was filled. Is it haunted? What's wrong with this place? I don't know where else you can get a 5,000 sq ft space with awesome columns and big-ass sculptures depicting symbols of the countries General Accident Insurance operated in.

The blueprint from Partridge Associates
                Tell me you couldn't fit an awesom restaurant in here called "General Accident"!?!? There's even a 50' x 19' room in the back that you could use as a private party space! Think about it-- if you call it General Accident you wouldn't even have to cover the old signage up top OR have to deal with some retail signage NIMBYs like other businesses do! Can't do a restaurant here? Ok, its also available as office space! Say you're a company renting a 4,000 sq ft space on the 11th floor of some obscure building. You can rent this spot and be seen by everyone walking by! Instead of telling client "11th floor of the Shitbird Building", you can say, "Ground floor of General Accident, under the kick-ass medallions! That's right!!"
              The space can be divided into a 2,100 sq ft segment if 5,000 is too much for ya. Good old-fashioned high-end retail could work here too. You have a whole building full of expensive-ass homes above along with some brand new ones on the 300 block. The rest of the surrounding buildings are offices with high-paying jobs and a rich people's building is about to be built a block away!
           Did I mention the tourists? This place is directly across the street from the Independence National Historical Park! You put the right thing in here and it would only have to do well in the Summer months to stay open all year! Then there's the transit access. Not only is this place accessible from countless bus lines and has the EL not too far away- it gets passed by the stinky horse carriages! Make sure you employ someone to pick up the horseshit out front!
          So, you want the place now, eh? Well, you can't even have it. The listing for this went "Off Market" six months ago which either means that someone has been leasing it all this time (without doing shit with it) or they just gave the fuck up.
          Don't let this one die! Contact Mallin Panchelli Nadel Realty and see what the fuck is up with this place. If that doesn't work, get Turchi Properties, the people who manage the building, on the phone and tell them you want to FILL THIS FRONT!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Old Ass Building(s): Wagner Free Insitiute and Marine Corps Depot Schuylkill Warehouse

1700 West Montgomery Avenue, 730 Schuylkill Avenue

Photo by Michael Bixler
              Two very different buildings, two very different destinies. The Wagner Free Institute and the Marine Corps Depot Schuylkill Warehouse. What's the story? Found at the Hidden City Daily!

Photo by Michael Bixler

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fill This Front: 31 South 2nd

31 South Second Street

        This shitbird storefront is located in a semi-blighted Old City building that has been tied up in legal shit for years. I wish it was the only one of its kind on this block, but it isn't. Nonetheless, since this is the only one technically available for lease and/or sale, let's try to get it filled.
        The building this is located in is part of a conglomeration of half-renovated buildings that face both 2nd and Letitia Streets. In the documents in the legal shit related to this property, the group of buildings is called the "EFL V Property". Since this is an Old City building, I'm not going to bore you with the long long LONG list of occupants this storefront has had... however I can tell you about its most recent history.
         In 1947, it was combined with the storefront next door to become Waldman Furniture. The signage for this store has been re-exposed on the 33 South Second side of the front. Whatever happened there, it didn't work out and the storefronts were re-separated by 1953, when it became a lighting store called Lamp Exchange that stayed open for nearly 3 decades.

As Lamp Exchange in 1972.
             In 1982, the front began under its final purpose, a series of dry cleaning establishments that lasted well into the 21st Century. In this picture from 2005, you'll see that the storefront was relatively new-looking and up for lease by a real estate agency.

31 and 33's storefronts look a lot better in this picture, if you're wondering about how 27 and 29 got like that, read this. They're doing a lot better now.
                 In 2006, EFL Partners started a renovation of the place in connection with bunch of other adjacent buildings they also own. I'm bad at reading legalese but from what I can tell, they got the place partially redone at best. Ever since, the storefront has been boarded up and has been looking like shit. However, in 2012, a sign suddenly appeared reading "COMMERCIAL SPACE AVAILABLE". Though I can't tell if the sign means the storefront or the upper floors, I'm going to assume that the store space must be available. The phone number on the sign traces back to some dude's house in Staten Island, but whatever. Call him up.
              This is a ~945 square foot space with a 13'6" frontage on the unit block of South 2nd Street. This is a prime location for a business owner, since this block is rife with tourists during the day and covered with drunk out-of-towners (and out-of-neighborhooders) at night. Despite the look of this building and some others nearby, the surrounding 3-4 block radius is home to thousands of people with lots and lots of disposable income. In addition to that, there is an EL Stop half a block away and a bus transit hub nearby that serves a whole shit-ton of lines.
            Be a hero. Save a storefront that hasn't been in use for over a decade. Make lots of dough while contributing to society. Its all right there, ready for you. FILL THIS FRONT!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Butt-Fugly Building: Free Library of Philadelphia Charles Santore Branch

932 South 7th Street

             Fuck this bomb-shelter looking piece of shit right here. I don't care how much people might like it. This 51-year-old asspile is just yet another mid-century building in the city that proves, like many others, that these type of designs don't stand the test of time-- not in Philadelphia, anyway.
            There isn't much to say on the history of this place. It is the sequel to a much nicer 1911-built building that still stands at 5th and Ellsworth. This uglier one was proposed and designed in 1960 under designs from a crap firm called Eshbach, Pullinger, Stevens, Bruder. This firm did a lot of fucking damage to this city. Their other masterpieces include the 9th District Police Station/Rodin Place shopping center/parking garage at 20th and Hamiltion, the Orlowitz Residence Hall at 10th and Locust, and all of the UGLIEST 1960s/70s buildings on the Penn campus, which is saying something.

 Pic by Austin Murphy, Creative Commons License etc etc
            Talk about a building that doesn't fit with its surroundings. Great old brick rowhouses, churches, and schools as you walk around this hood, then you happen upon this goddamn concrete bunker and just yell "WHAT THE MOTHERFUCK!?!?!?" to the sky. It fits less into the neighborhood than the bright red awning of the pizza place across the street. What the fuck were they thinking with this design? It seems to be this common institutional theme from the mid 20th Century where they would make this pentagon shape like when a 5-year-old draws and house and run it over and over again down the street.

The logo of the Capital Area Head Start program looks mysteriously like the Charles Santore Branch

                You can also find this architectural theme in the design of some of the Rec Centers around the parts of the city the vast majority of you will never go. What a bunch of garbage. This 7,700 square foot Free Library branch broke ground on July 11th, 1962 and opened on November 1, 1963 as the Southwark Branch, again the sequel to a much awesomer building of the same name. Oh, did I mention what they demolished to build this piece of shit here?

Early 1962 pic of the awesome fire/police station destroyed to make way for this mess. 
The short time between the demolition of the old and the building of the new. If only they knew.
             The library went through a major renovation in 1998 when all 52 library branches were cleaned up and given internet access. On March 26, 2004, they insulted the shit out of the memory of Charles Santore, former boxer, Republican Ward Leader, and union local founder by naming the ugliest building in his whole neighborhood after him. There was another small renovation in 2010.
              I'm sure the community likes this place and that the library itself is just fine, but what a piece of fuck architecturally. Why the white walls at the corner? All the oddly-shaped rooms on the inside? I feel bad for the residents of Beulah Street who have the back of this shitty building across the street from their front doors.

The original blueprint via the Free Library of Philadelphia. In the 60s they thought having a bunch of slanted walls everywhere was the way to go.
                Look, the predecessor of this library was 52 year old when this place was built. This one is 51 years old now. That means, if we're going to follow to same pattern, a replacement of this building is due. Not that the city will be building new library buildings any time soon. Do this motherfucker a favor and put it out of its goddamn misery. Harrumph.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mr. GroJLart Goes To Washington

Washington, District of Columbia

            I have been to D.C. exactly 3 times including this latest visit a couple of weeks ago. The first time was to go to the Superbowl of Hardcore 2001 (while trying to remember the name of this show I found myself in a video from it!) where I didn't really see the rest of the city, the second time was in the Summer of 2002 when it was like 100 degrees there and it sucked, and this, the third time, was my first REAL visit where I got to see the most of downtown from a GroJLartian perspective. Though I'm sure some people who've been to DC a lot are going to think my impression of it is going to be pretty stupid, I present it to you anyway:

Architecture  & Development 

         The architecture in DC is more or less pretty good... lots and lots of new buildings with pretty decent designs interspersed with tons of old stuff that looks awesome-- up to and including some old shit from Philly architects!

A building by John Fraser, Frank Furness's mentor who moved to DC. Same dude who did the Union League!

Kick-ass building by Philly's James Hamilton Windrim
             Development there seems to be going bonkers. Almost every block has either a renovation, an infill, or a crane on it. Like many have noted before, the height limit on buildings works to spread development out and created nice building canyons along the streets. With no really tall buildings around, they don't seem so short anyway.

              THAT BEING SAID (I hate that expression), DC also has a buttload of buildings from the worst periods of architectural history. In almost every direction, one can observe a garbage piece of brutalism or a very badly designed bit of modernism.

The Australian Embassy by Sir Walter Paul Osborn McCutcheon. Shrimp on the Barbie, G'Day Mate, etc etc
                    The height limit, while nice for some areas of the city, caused some gigantic super-block monster buildings to be built, especially in the area surrounding the National Mall. The 2 million+ square foot USDA complex should have just been a proper skyscraper

Look at that shit. It was designed by Philly's own Rankin & Kellogg, the same dudes who did the 30th Street Post Office/IRS Building.
Pedestrian Perspective

          In Philly, I use SEPTA when I need to get somewhere fast but most of the time I walk. Though DC has one kick-ass subway system, I'm sad to say that I didn't even use it when I was there.. I walked EVERYWHERE. I didn't even try the Capital Bikeshare bikes, which were all over the place. Most of the time, walking around was pretty nice. The weather was good so I got to enjoy most of what the downtown has to offer besides all the historical shit. I got to check out the commercial districts and even the U Street Corridor, which is cool because, though generally gentrified, has still hung on to some of its old school stuff.
        Something I didn't really like were those fucking circles. Its nice how they create patches of green space in the city but they're goddamn pedestrian nightmares--- there's like 20 crosswalks to traverse just to get around them!

Thomas Circle, the one I passed the most.
             At this time, I must touch on one sensitive subject: the bums. I know this is probably gonna cheese some people off, but there were homeless folks everywhere I went in DC. Every green space I passed had some hanging about and several were practically shanty towns. One of them rode a bike toward me, threw it down in front of my feet, and started doing karate moves in my direction. Having had many odd encounters with street friends in Philly, I just walked away from the dude. He went walking into the heavy traffic, leaving the bike on the sidewalk.
            I thought maybe I was just noticing the homeless because I was in a different city, but later I found out that DC has about 7,750 homeless versus Philly's roughly 650. More than 10 times the amount! Holy crap!! Something obviously needs to be done to help these folks.

Speaking of Sensitive Subjects...

         So I went to the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House because the only other time I had seen it in person was from the other side. Well, it was disappointing. Why? They weren't letting people cross Pennsylvania Avenue and all the streets for a few blocks around were blocked off for no given reason. On the White House roof, there were snipers. Snipers? What the fuck, man? I know there's been all these incidents of people running down the White House lawn, but I have to live in a country now where our executive mansion has fucking snipers on it?

Maybe they weren't snipers-- perhaps they were just decorative eagle statues that lost their wings.
          For the next few hours afterward I annoyed the shit out of my wife doing my best Alex Jones impression, going "ITS A HELLHOLE OF SURVEILLANCE AND POLICE STATE AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS BEING TORCHED! BEING DESTROYED!!" and "THE GLOBALISTS SET UP THE DEMISE OF OUR SOCIETY AND OUR CIVILIZATION!" I never thought I would live in a world where I would think this dude was right about something, even for a second. I pictured myself getting thrown into a volcano one day screaming "FUUUUCK!! HE WAS RIGHT!! ALEX JONES WAS RIIIIIiiiiiiiighhht!!!"
        Anyway, that's my impression of DC. I'm sure any DC natives or residents reading this have already puked all over themselves in disgust of my ignorance of their city, but oh well. Pretty nice place over all, but, as predicted, I prefer Philly. One last thing: PREIT needs to get off its ass and visit Union Station in DC to see what the Gallery is supposed to look like. That is all I'm going to say about that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fill This Front: Crappy Jefferson 10th Street Building

137 South 10th Street

         This one right here is a real pisser. I've been doing these Fill This Front rants for awhile now and totally overlooked this little shitbird I've walked by a thousand times until a reader brought it up to me on Shitter. Believe it or not, this little piece of shit is actually kind of an historic building... too bad it now just sits there, underutilized as fuck. While this Front is technically Filled and will be changing soon, it still needs to be called out for it suckquiousness.
        Its unknown exactly when this little building was built but the storefront came into prominence in 1850 when Otto Eisenlohr started his tobacco business right there, in one little room on the first floor. The company would, by 1920, be the third largest cigar manufacturer in the United States with an income of $250 million per year. So how do we honor the origin point of this great company? With a shitbird stone-over-brick facade and a bunch of display windows being used as an advertisement for Jefferson's media center.
        This location has seen countless stores come and go: Boon and Sample plumbing at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, a bunch of stationary stores in the 1920s an 30s, a pottery shop in the 1950s (they were the bastards who had the Rock Craft Company out of Cobb's Creek apply that garbage facade in 1957), jewelry supplies in the 1960s, and then finally a printing and graphics shop in 1982. Jefferson bought the place on February 25th, 1988 for over $1 Million and has used it for various purposes over the years. Currently (or most recently), it houses/housed the Video & Audio Production Services wing of Jeffline Medical Media Services. Jefferson's Master Plan from 2006 had this entire block wiped out, but that's probably never going to happen at this point considering Jefferson still doesn't own 3 of the properties on the block.

2006 Master Plan for 10th and Walnut
             However, there is a small, small glimmer of hope for this little storefront. The Sign Committee of the Philadelphia Art Commission has an agenda item for their October 24th meeting  labeled "Jefferson Accelerator Zone, 137 South 10th Street". This, of course, could mean anything.  However, there is a new construction permit for the space stating this:


          There's another new permit about interior demolition. Upon recent inspection of the place, it seems construction has already begun (the WORK IN PROGRESS sign ain't lying). So at least SOMETHING is planned for action on this shitty little space. Good. This means that Jefferson is on its way to get off its ass and FILL THIS FRONT!

UPDATE:  Philaphile Colin Weir sent me some recent interior pics of this place over the Shitter. He tells me the space is to be an "Innovation Center"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Old-Ass Building of the Week: West Philadelphia Title & Trust

3557-3559, or 3459 Walnut Street, 131 or 133 South 36th Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
                 This was once one of the only office buildings in its neighborhood. However, it didn't take long to become enveloped by UPenn. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!