“The goal is to revitalize that commercial corridor. What we’d like to do is build something cool there that’s a combination [of residential and commercial].”
It all started with a pop-up.
On May 16, an otherwise uncontroversial pop-up garden surfaced at 1622 Point Breeze Ave. To anyone familiar with the neighborhood, you could be fooled into thinking it was a mirage — an unlikely birthing ground for an entertainment concept you’d expect to find occupying lots in major commercial corridors like South Street or Columbus Boulevard.
“Before they moved that garden over there, it was a dump,” a Point Breeze man locally referred to as “Wala Wala,” who lives directly across from the pop-up, told PhillyVoice outright. “It was garbage, trailers, old trucks. For 30 years, I rode by here, and it was a dump.”
Though, most residents can recall when the avenue wasn’t a “dump.”
Point Breeze Avenue, or “The Breeze,” as it’s called by longtime residents, hasn’t been a significant commercial corridor for decades. And while “dump” might not be the most tactful choice of words, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call the avenue a relic of its former self. It’s what makes the garden’s existence — what, with its food trucks, yoga and beer — such a curious one.
Because for residents who remember a bustling Point Breeze Avenue, the garden is a symbol of hope.
Fact: The pop-up garden will be gone in September. That won’t change. However, it’s not true that the space will return to its former state of vacancy once its array of merchants pack up for good.
That was never the plan for Longacre, who owns LPMG Properties and is responsible for the pop-up in the first place.
“It’s a test to see what we can do there,” he told PhillyVoice.
By implementing a space filled with amenities like food trucks, a produce cart and community programming, Longacre — the man behind South Philadelphia Tap Room and American Sardine Bar — wanted to experiment with how much interest merchants could generate in a neighborhood that’s less densely populated than an average (and more ideal) commercial site. Considering the garden has, he said, attracted “thousands” since its May opening, he’s considering the experiment a pretty successful one.
Now, Longacre is thinking long-term.
“The goal is to revitalize that commercial corridor,” Longacre explained. “And there’s two parts to that: You need amenity businesses, and you need residents. The residents won’t move in where there aren’t any amenity-based businesses, and amenity-based businesses won’t go where there aren’t residents. It’s a tricky balancing act, and what we’d like to do is build something cool there that’s a combination of both [residential and commercial].”
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