Hokkaido closes after one year on Walnut Street


We should have known things weren’t looking good for Hokkaido, the moderate-priced Japanese-Thai restaurant at 1316 Walnut St. in the Midtown Village-Gayborhood section of Washington Square West, the moment it started adding dancing lights and billboard-like signs to its facade.

Although the restaurant opened with a smidgen of these elements on April 1 of last year, the come-ons grew more numerous and insistent as the months passed, drawing attention away from the sensitive reconstruction of the facade of this Romanesque building, not to mention the stylish ’60s Modernist interior with its ultra-high ceiling and balcony. (more…)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 23rd, 2014
Filed under: Center City,Food and Drink,Restaurants,Washington Square West

Lunchtime Quick Hits

The PFT and public school activists launch a campaign to dissolve the School Reform Commission; Axis Philly looks at Temple’s drive to transform itself from a regional Rodney Dangerfield into a national powerhouse; a science-and-technology-focused charter school in the Far Northeast has become the hottest educational ticket in town, right up there with Masterman; and someone wants to build what at 20th and Wharton? Well, not really:

Public School Advocates Propose November Ballot Question on Dissolving SRC (CBS Philly)
Overlooked no more (Axis Philly)
Philly’s coolest charter school is high-tech haven (Philadelphia Daily News|Philly.com)
Mega Gas Station and Animal Husbandry Planned for 20th and Wharton (Naked Philly)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 23rd, 2014

Fabric Row rehab adds apartments to existing building

614-16 S 4th

A mixed-use structure at 614-16 S. 4th Street, on Queen Village’s historic Fabric Row, is getting alterations.

The building, which contains retail space on the first floor and apartments on the two floors above, has been gutted and is being expanded at its rear. (more…)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 23rd, 2014
Filed under: Philadelphia real estate,Queen Village,Rentals

Lunchtime Quick Hits

While Philly has more to offer than Chattanooga, it faces some of the same challenges the Tennessee city does, including how to keep all those new young arrivals around for the long run – and there may be object lessons for Philly in Chattanooga’s approach to the issue; Existing-home sales nationwide slipped a bit last month, though not by as much as economists expected; A huge 862-acre tract at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station is now in play; and Germantowners come togther to figure out what life after high school might look like for Germantown High School (among the options being considered: a high school, maybe even more than one):

The Talent That Binds (Next City “Forefront”; purchase or subscription required)
U.S. Existing-Home Sales Slip — Update (The Wall Street Journal)
Ten developers vie for 862-acre Willow Grove air base (Philadelphia Business Journal)
What’s next for Germantown High School? (Flying Kite)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 22nd, 2014
Filed under: Articles

Rittenhouse Estates rising fast; sales progressing even faster

Rittenhouse Estates construction site

Work is progressing at a steady pace on The Rittenhouse Estates, the followup to The Lombard Estates in Rittenhouse Square now being built by Realtor-developer Noah Ostroff, the sponsor of this blog.

We happened to be in the vicinity of the project site at 19th and Lombard streets last week, and thanks to a quirk in the construction process, found ourselves able to get some great pictures of foundation work nearing completion.

The quirk? In order to allow the cement trucks to deliver concrete to the site, the construction fencing had been lowered in several places, allowing us to take shots of the work in progress. We now share those photos with you. In the first of the photos below, we believe that the hole in the basement floor on the right is the place where the elevator equipment will be installed.

Foundations of Rittenhouse Estates townhomes

Cement delivery for foundations

View of cement delivery from 19th Street

Ostroff informs us that nine of the 10 townhomes in this development have already been sold. To refresh your memory, you can see what the completed project will look like on the outside here, and you can take a look at the floorplans here.

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 22nd, 2014

Boxers conversion starts, then stops, on Walnut Street

1330 Walnut

About two weeks ago, interior demolition work began on the former Ritz Camera store at 1330 Walnut Street in the Midtown Village-Gayborhood section of Washington Square West. As we reported earlier, this building will become the Philadelphia outpost of Boxers, a New York sports bar aimed at a gay male clientele.

As the wraps came off the walls, we could see some of the ceiling and wall covering had been removed, in the process answering a question about the building’s appearance that had puzzled us for some time. (more…)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 22nd, 2014
Filed under: Articles

Lunchtime Quick Hits

Carl Dranoff and One Riverside’s neighbors meet rather than fight, and the result is a win-win-win for everyone; The expiration of a Keystone Opportunity Zone stands to turn Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack into one of the region’s largest taxpayers, and Harrah’s isn’t happy about the development; as the Friends of the Rail Park move closer to making the first part of their vision for the Reading Viaduct reality, here’s a cautionary tale from the Netherlands about the limits of such placemaking; and they’re still tearing down houses at the Jersey Shore, but Sandy has nothing to do with the activity:

Changing Skyline: Harmony over planned One Riverside high-rise (The Philadelphia Inquirer|Philly.com)
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack faces hefty tax bills (The Philadelphia Inquirer|Philly.com)
A Cautionary Tale for Cities That Want Their Own High Line (Next City Daily)
Shore teardowns booming, but not because of Sandy (The Philadelphia Inquirer|Philly.com)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 21st, 2014

Cella Luxuria gives itself a first birthday present: More room

Cella Luxuria, left, and its soon-to-be expanded showroom, right

Cella Luxuria, left, and its soon-to-be expanded showroom, right

Time flies when you’re having fun, and Cella Luxuria’s husband-and-wife owners, Stefan Sklaroff and Cristina Leynes, have been having fun since their store opened one year ago in Washington Square West’s Midtown Village-Gayborhood section.

Lots of it, apparently: according to Leynes, business has been so good, the two-level store at 1214 Chestnut Street needs more room. So Cella Luxuria is expanding into the building next door at 1216 Chestnut.

The two structures are full of ironies: The building at left has the newer facade but is the older structure.

The two structures are full of ironies: The building at left has the newer facade but is the older structure.

This one-story structure with a balcony in its rear most recently housed a clothing store, Denim Code by Dr. Denim. Cella Luxuria will extend its showrooms into both the main floor and the basement of the building; an opening for a passageway to the building next door was covered up by boards when we stopped by recently.

Leynes said the new space would feature new modern furniture exclusively. Though modern furniture has been Cella Luxuria’s stock in trade since it opened, the store has added a somewhat more eclectic mix of new and vintage furniture over the intervening months, in keeping with its commitment to “mindfulness” in preserving the environment. (The store’s offerings have emphasized the use of recycled, found and sustainably produced materials from the beginning, and recycled furniture is a natural fit with this philosophy.)

The expanded store should be open by next month.

Photos by the author

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 21st, 2014
Filed under: Articles

Planning Commission OKs Perry World House proposal

Kappa Alpha house, front

The former Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Penn’s Locust Walk will become a center for international scholars under a proposal approved by the City Planning Commission last week.

The University of Pennsylvania will add a new venue for intellectual discourse and conferences for visiting international scholars and students to its campus.  The new institution, to be known as the Perry World House, will be located in the former Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Locust Walk, just west of 38th Street in University City.  The Perry World House will be a “gathering place for students” as well as international scholars who will speak and take part in seminars, conferences, and forums being held there. (more…)

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 21st, 2014
Filed under: Articles

Phabulous Philly Home of the Week: 2028 Chancellor St.

Living Room and Foyer

Though the current owner, who uses this charming, elegant space as an office, has one, you don’t need a Ph.D. to see that this condo in the former John Wanamaker carriage house on secluded Chancellor Street near Rittenhouse Square is just right for your lifestyle.

Living Room

Stylish and comfortable, it’s equipped with the best of everything, starting with the bamboo hardwood floors and recessed lighting throughout. High ceilings and large windows add to the sense of spaciousness and light.


The foyer, with its large window, opens onto the open plan main space. Along with the living room and kitchen, it forms a seamless whole.

Kitchen 2

The thoroughly modern kitchen features traditionally styled cabinetry with crown moulding, granite counters, island with bar top, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Bosch dishwasher, built-in microwave and large pantry just off the kitchen.

Powder Room

Off the living room is a powder room with elegant copper vessel sink, granite countertop and Toto toilet.

Living Room 2

Through the French doors off the foyer is a bedroom that can serve as a den or home office as well.

Master Bedroom

The master bedroom, off the living room, features plenty of closet space and an en suite bathroom with tile wainscotting and full tile shower with frameless glass enclosure.

Bathroom Shower

It too has a Toto toilet.

Bathroom Toilet and Vanity

The unit includes a laundry room with gas dryer and garage parking for one car, accessible from within the unit.


All the best Rittenhouse Square has to offer is at your feet: the square itself is one block away, as are the shops and restaurants of Rittenhouse Row and South 20th Street.


This home has two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and 1,280 square feet of interior space It lists for $569,000.

Front Elevation - Perspective View

More on 2028 Chancellor St.

Posted by Sandy Smith on April 20th, 2014
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