by Bart Bajda
I’d like to begin this by saying thank you to the City of Brotherly Love for the warm welcome it has given me since moving here and I mean that literally; the weather has been too hot for comfort. Nonetheless, this is a tale of my venture to Philadelphia and my first impressions of the neighborhood I now call home.
One of the first steps in moving to a new city is finding a place to hang your hat. Everyone has their specific list of must-haves and deal breakers but unlike most, my criteria was pretty relaxed. What can I say…I’m a simple man. Some sort of backyard, storage space, and of course a low budget were my only requirements. Not too familiar with the city, I set out on an apartment tour across many neighborhoods curated by a rental agent. What I quickly found was that my neighborhood options were limited based on what I needed and what I was willing to pay. Hence, I landed in Brewerytown…oh sweet B-town. I’m told the entire area was completely populated with breweries before Prohibition killed the majority of the business. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood so gracefully named? Right? Apparently not. When I began telling everyone the great news, to my surprise, not many knew where this even was. Somehow this seemed to be uncharted territory, even for a few native Philadelphians. Now as soon as I mentioned the new Aldi grocery store…the light bulb went off. Nonetheless, I began having my doubts on whether this was a good decision.
Fast forward a few months and the doubts have all quickly evaporated into thin air and I am overwhelmingly proud to call Brewerytown my home. This neighborhood has thus far preserved a sense of grittiness and natural urban feel, not yet overtaken by the privileged (see definition of gentrification). Just take a walk down Girard Avenue and you’ll see Rybrew, the sister sandwich shop to Rybread with an unbelievable beer selection, coexisting with the Girard Veterinary Clinic and Cycle Brewerytown on the same block. Across the street, Spot Burger dishes out some of the finest patties between 2 buns that you’ll find in the city. Within a 5 minute walk you’ll find other incredible businesses like Chez Novaks, Karma Pizza (formerly Uncle Nicks), Pizza Dads, Young’s Sneaker City, Electric Temple, Brewerytown Bicycles, Otto’s, 2637 Brew, Monkey and the Elephant, Era, Brewerytown Beats, and Crime and Punishment Brewing Co., triumphantly putting the “brewery” back in Brewerytown. The list goes on and on and I haven’t even mentioned the quintessential corner stores (or as I like to call them…bodegas) that populate almost every other street corner.
If you ask me, I’d say leave it the way it is, but for better or for worse there is a tremendous amount of new construction of all scales happening as I write this. Almost every property on 31st street from Girard to Oxford St is currently under construction or has been within the last 3 years claiming the newly minted title of 31st Street Corridor. For Pete’s sake, there’s a Green Eggs Café opening soon on Girard Ave. Is it an ominous cloud of doom and development that hovers above Brewerytown, or is it the necessary next step that leads to success? Only time will tell, but for now, I will enjoy my stay, listening to the charming rumble of the #15 trolley.
Bart Bajda an architect and lover of cold weather.