Posted: Mon, May. 28, 2012, 3:01 AM
Boom times in Barnes' new neighborhood
By Jeff Gammage
Inquirer Staff Writer
People say the Franklintown neighborhood is changing, but that's not true.
It's being transformed.
An area that's become chock-a-block with quality housing, good restaurants, stores, and attractions is going to get more, and soon, encouraged by the opening of the Barnes Foundation and its own surging momentum.
"We're getting ready for prime time, our prime time," said Mel Seligsohn, who lives in the stylish Tivoli townhouse complex. At the same time, "it's a little sad, losing control. You don't know what's going to happen."
In the last five years, the neighborhood has developed a restaurant row on Callowhill Street: Sabrina's Cafe sits by Doma Sushi, close to the King of Tandoor Indian Restaurant, near the Kite & Key - where 17 beers wait on tap and 48 more brands are in bottles. Across the street is the seemingly eternal Rose Tattoo.
Farther west on Callowhill, a Whole Foods Market draws a diverse crowd of shoppers, the emporium of a 14-block neighborhood that includes the Free Library, Community College of Philadelphia, and John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School.
There's talk that the Family Court building will become a hotel. Construction of a majestic Mormon temple, the first in Pennsylvania, is scheduled to start in July at 18th and Vine Streets.
Franklintown serves as a rectangular connector for the Logan Square and Spring Garden neighborhoods, running from 16th to 21st, and from the Vine Expressway to Hamilton Street, though some see Spring Garden Street as the northern border.
Predictions of the neighborhood's imminent success go back to the 1980s. But now it really seems to be happening.
The best way to get to Franklintown? Follow your ears - toward the loud, battering clatter of jackhammers and the shrill, beeping back-up signals of heavy trucks.
Near 20th and Callowhill, dump trucks collect tons of earth being displaced for the Granary, an apartment-and-retail complex scheduled to open in 2013. The project sits beside the real, fortresslike granary that looms over the block, a 1925 landmark built on the site of a Civil War grain elevator.
"Now is the time," said Jeff Katz, owner of Katz's Deli Kitchen on City Avenue, who on a recent weekday was strolling Hamilton, trading thoughts about the neighborhood's prospects with a friend, real estate consultant David Carroll.
"It feels like you're in the country a little bit. It's green," Carroll said. "Your proximity to 'real Center City,' if you've got the legs, is a couple of blocks."
Compared with the crowded heart of downtown, Franklintown offers greater space and cheaper prices, he said. The cluster of major art institutions - the Barnes, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rodin Museum - accelerates the area's desirability.
But not everyone is excited about the big changes in this small space.
Joshua Rodrigo regularly visits his mother in local senior housing. He doesn't see new, upscale apartments and restaurants as all positive.
"Yuppies moving in. Property rates going up. Old, original families have to move out," said Rodrigo, who was walking his beagle, Snoopy, in Matthias Baldwin Park. "This has become a town of transients, not a town of Philadelphians."