Blocks We Love: 2700 South Street

If you’ve ever sat on the fence, unable to decide between bustling downtown living or a more relaxed neighborhood set up, the 2700 block of South Street might peak your interest. Philadelphia is such a great city because it settles somewhere in the middle of skyscrapers, high-rises, and all of the action they denote, and the low-rise, neighborhood scale that comes from the city’s immense stock of rowhomes.


Sometimes referred to as Devil’s Pocket or “The Pocket” for short, this little nook is situated in the middle of beautiful, historic Fitler Square and hip Graduate Hospital, at the nexus where Center City gives way to University City. This stretch of seven petite, colorful rowhomes feels quaint and intimate, yet right in the midst of the beating heart of city living in Philadelphia.



Each home sports a matching door, pediment, and cornice, painted in a color unique from the others in the row. The overall impression is one of cohesiveness. Despite the multitude of hues represented amongst the twelve rowhomes, the uniformity of the doors with their unique pediment and continuous cornice line puts forth the image of a united front.


The simple pediment above each home’s door harkens back to the Colonial period. While it is unlikely that these houses are quite that old, it is possible that they date as far back as 1895. The style of the housing stock, particularly as evidenced in earlier photographs which show simple, unadorned, three-story brick structures, suggests a turn of the century construction. The pediments were likely added at some point in the past half century as a cosmetic upgrade or as part of more significant renovations.


Two photographs from the mid-1900s of the area: Facing West on 27th Street in 1953 showing the row of homes on the 2700 block and the South Street Bridge (Above); Taken from Schuylkill Ave in 1949 showing the irregular parcel shape of the corner property from behind (Below). Source: PhillyHistory.org. http://www.phillyhistory.org. Philadelphia Department of Records (accessed August 26, 2017).


On historic maps of Philadelphia there are parcels indicated on this block as early as 1895, with eight parcels outlined. The correct number of slots, seven, don’t show up until 1942. Possibilities to explain this difference in parcel count include that the homes were combined at one point to form larger properties, the end unit alone was transformed from two to one to compensate for the unconventional angle taken at the corner, or the homes could have been raised and rebuilt entirely. A remaining explanation comes down to a simple error in transcription from on the ground surveying to mapmaking.


Two historic maps of Philadelphia: 1895 Bromley Atlas showing 8 parcels (Above) and 1942 Works Progress Administration Land-Use Map showing 7 parcels (Below). Source: Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network Interactive Maps Viewer, http://www.philageohistory.org/tiles/viewer/.


Over time, each homeowner has imbued the facades with their own personal flair, through paint colors, “front lawn” furniture, and a variety of well kept plants and flowers.


We love this block for its historical significance, charming facades, one of a kind location at the core of three major parts of the city, and proximity to great Philadelphia mainstays like the South Street Bridge, Schuylkill River Trail, and Fitler Square Park.


Featured Tenant: Kei Sushi

The co-owners of Kei Sushi put the concept of family into everything they do. That is why they’ve built a small, close knit staff at their newly opened Japanese restaurant in Philadelphia’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood. This is also why the duo were drawn to this neighborhood in the first place, because everyone was so friendly and really made them feel welcome. The importance of family is why co-owners Yenyta Winata and Hartadi Tjahja were attracted to Solo Realty, a family-owned and run real estate company. Finally, that is why, when you walk through the doors of Kei Sushi at 1711 South Street, you, too, will be welcomed as if you were family.


Co-owners Yenyta Winata (left) and Hartadi Tjahja (right) pose in front of their custom Kei sign

After over fourteen years in the restaurant business, jumping back and forth from Philadelphia to New York City, Yenyta quit her job and made a decisive move back to Philadelphia in the form of a business plan to open Kei Sushi with her close friend, Hartadi, a long time South Philadelphia resident. Hartadi moved to Philadelphia from Jakarta, Indonesia when he was around eighteen and has resided in the city ever since.


Both co-owners love Philadelphia for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Compared to the crowded and fast paced cities of New York City and Jakarta, Philadelphia is a breath of fresh air. The two were drawn to Graduate Hospital in particular because of how welcoming everyone is and the high volume of young people eager to dine-out in the burgeoning BYOB restaurant scene in the area.


Before settling on Southwest Center City, Yenyta and Hartadi looked with their agent Daniel from Berkshire Hathaway for a suitable commercial space for almost two years. They looked all around the city too, ranging from Germantown, University City, and Fishtown.


When they finally came across 1711 South Street the owners were not immediately convinced. The space was only a barebones office at that point, with an unfinished basement and no kitchen. Yet, charmed by the surrounding community, Yenyta and Hartadi decided to take the plunge.  


Now came the hard part – renovating the space and customizing it to achieve the warm and welcoming atmosphere the owners were after. The pair dreamed up most of the design work on their own, and executed the job with the help of a contractor. The custom sign and woodwork shelving in the walls is exquisite, and with just 24 seats, plus 4 at the sushi bar, an intimate atmosphere is established. In some ways being at Kei Sushi feels like you are in your own living room, in other ways it’s like being in a sleek, innovative new restaurant. “We just want people to come in and feel comfortable,” remarks Hartadi.


Working with Solo agents Alex Franqui and Sean Rapp made the process a lot easier for the pair. They both agree that the two agents could not have been more patient and resourceful in helping them fit out this commercial space to achieve their aesthetic vision, not to mention all of the technical requirements for a restaurant. Alex and Sean remained supportive through the entire undertaking until, ultimately, Kei Sushi was ready to open.



Run to perfection by a small staff, Kei Sushi puts out some of the most delicately crafted and uniquely flavored sushi in Philadelphia. Blending traditional Japanese preparations with modern influence, the menu offers a wide array of options that are sure to please and excite any Japanese cuisine enthusiast.


After we finished talking no one would let me leave until I took my spot at the sushi counter and indulged in a full spread, prepared by sushi chef Robin, and Yenyta, who in addition to being a co-owner is also an accomplished chef. There is no denying the quality of the sushi at Kei, and that quality is only deepened by the friendly and unique atmosphere in the restaurant, created by both the space and the staff who really do seem more like family than mere co-workers.


We are certainly excited to have Kei Sushi as one of our tenants at Solo Realty. The restaurant and the team behind it are an excellent addition to the Graduate Hospital neighborhood and Philadelphia as a whole.



Graduate Hospital Grows Up

Graduate Hospital, with its proximity to the Rittenhouse Square, downtown businesses and University City, has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade. However, new proposals are taking that growth in a bold new direction – upwards.


Philadelphia Real Estate Blog has reported that two new highrise developments (both slated for five stories) are being considered for Graduate Hospital. In an area this hot however, these first-of-their-kind projects may have a profound effect not just on the future of the neighborhood, but on Philadelphia’s  cityscape as well.


To understand what’s remarkable about these proposed highrises, it’s important to acknowledge certain aspects of Philadelphia’s architectural history. While New York City has hundreds of highrise apartment buildings, most of Philadelphia’s housing stock (with the exception of parts of Center City) is defined by two to three story rowhouses. This city-wide lack of verticality was created by numerous factors, including local economic history, population trends and, perhaps most famously, the Gentlemen’s Agreement that from 1901 thru 1987 kept developers from building any structure higher than the statue of William Penn that stands atop City Hall.


For its part, when Graduate Hospital began to rebound about a decade ago, developers initially found a seemingly inexhaustible supply of conversion-friendly rowhouses (along with plenty of empty lots) in the neighborhood. Years of construction though gobbled up most of the area’s available space; these new proposed highrises suggest then that we’ve reached a point where developers must now build up, rather than out, to provide more square footage in the neighborhood. With so much similar housing stock throughout the city, this scenario is likely to occur more and more as time, and urban redevelopment, goes on.


It should be said however what benefits developers does not always benefit communities. Highrises come with their own unique drawbacks, including loss of sunlight, stresses on parking and other issues associated with more vertical, denser neighborhoods. Furthermore, a continued emphasis on building in Graduate Hospital may come at the expense of less developed neighborhoods to the south and west as well.


In the end though, successfully building taller neighborhoods relies on more than just new buildings, but also anticipating an evolving needs of the affected community. A big part of this is ensuring residential development goes hand in hand with commercial and infrastructure development as well. To their credit, both of these new proposals have just these kinds of mixed-use elements. It’s incumbent on developers and leaders however to ensure that as communities reach upwards, they also reach inwards in order to shape a healthy, livable future.

Blocks We Love: 2300-2348 St. Albans Street

In a city where most private gardens are tucked behind homes, few Philadelphians have the chance to display their green thumbs to the world. On the 2300 block of Saint Albans Street however, residents not only enjoy a lovely shared garden in front of their homes, but also use this unique space to teach their children about the natural world.


Located just southwest of Center City, the 2300 block of Saint Albans Street was closed to traffic decades ago, with the resulting space being used to create a shared garden. The mature trees, flowers, park benches and well-kept homes surrounding the garden only hint though at this street’s complex history. Developed in the mid-1870s to house workers for Philadelphia’s industrial-age population boom, this area quickly gained a reputation as a rough, working-class Irish community. In fact, for years the neighborhood was referred to as “The Devil’s Pocket” thanks to a local legend about a priest who said the area’s children were so unruly that they would “steal the watch out of the Devil’s pocket.”


Nowadays however Saint Albans Place, as the 2300 block is alternatively known, has a decidedly different feel. The mix of children on tricycles and parents casually flicking their iPad screens suggests that the block has attracted a whole new subset of Philadelphians young and old.


Little landscapers on the 2300 block of Saint Albans Street participate in garden upkeep (right), helping to grow plants like roses and shrubs (left).


Raising their children on organic vegetables and holding a deep passion for sustainability, many urban residents are eager to buy a home on the 2300 block of Saint Albans Street and share with their children the horticultural and natural lessons that gardening has to offer. Essentially, each unit on the block comes with a small garden plot directly in front of the home, allowing residents to plant what they wish; those who choose not to participate however have their plot tended by the community garden club. The overall effect is quite charming, with a wonderfully diverse patchwork of different designs throughout the garden all tended by local families and gardeners.


While communities like the 2300 block of Saint Albans always grow and change, it’s a testament to the wonderful livability of the neighborhood that residents continue to celebrate and maintain this street’s unique garden. Indeed, as our ecological-consciousness grows and more and more people choose to raise their children in cities, spaces like the Saint Albans Place Community Garden will become even more cherished and appreciated for the aesthetic and communal benefits they offer.