In my last post (August 3) I looked at the old Moyamensing Prison site at 11th and Reed in South Philly, which is currently occupied by an Acme supermarket and a 202-place parking lot for Acme shoppers only. I suggested that the lot should be open to the general public, and that this would help relieve the shortage of parking for the Italian Market.
A reader gently suggested that if I was going to write about off-street parking at the Italian Market, I might want to learn about what's already there. And so I went and educated myself.
First stop was the Internet, where I quickly found a website called Philadelphia 9th Street Italian Market: http://www.phillyitalianmarket.com/contact/map.htm. Attached to the site is a map of off-street parking lots: http://www.phillyitalianmarket.com/contact/9thst.gif. It lists seven lots with a total of 560 spaces. Not bad. Certainly more spaces than I expected.
I'd been aware of several of these lots, but a number of them were new to me, so on August 21, after acupuncture, I walked around, map in hand, and counted spaces.
Instead of seven lots, I found five. The municipal lot on Ellsworth between 9th and 10th is now Cedars Village (921 Ellsworth). The website says it's for older people, and construction was completed in April 2014. Nice apartment building. Parking lot had been listed as having 47 spots.
The lot on the north side of Carpenter between 9th and 10th has also disappeared. There is new construction on the spot, which had been listed with 75 parking places.
On the same block of Carpenter, on the south side, there's a lot listed with 65 spaces. I counted 53.
The lot on the south side of Washington between 9th and 10th is listed with 120 spots. I counted 82.
It's true that I'd just come from acupuncture, it was a warm day, and I was hungry. My counts may be off by one or two, but they're not off by 38.
The only lot where my count agreed with the map was the lot on the south side of Washington between 8th and 9th: 43 spaces.
An Improvement Opportunity
This lot is, to my mind, an interesting improvement opportunity. As you're walking on 9th Street below Washington, there's a lengthy plywood barricade on the east side. Behind it is a dead zone of uneven land where presumably there were once buildings. And behind that is the parking lot, occupying perhaps half of the vacant land. Philadelphians, unite! You have nothing to lose but your dead wasteland in the center of the bustling Italian Market.
At the very least we should be able to add 50 places and have an attractive frontage on 9th Street.
The municipal lot on the north side of Washington between 8th and Passyunk is rated for 120 places and has 74.
Finally, the municipal lot on Christian between 7th and 8th is listed for 90 spots but only has 27, plus four spots reserved for Zipcars.
This last lot is adjacent to the lot for the Fleisher Art Memorial. Perhaps at one time all of this was one lot, but that's not the way it is today.
So, as I noted above, the map totals 560 spaces. I counted 279, a little less than half of 560.
Those 202 spots down by the Acme are starting to look pretty good about now, aren't they?
Especially since off-street parking near the Italian Market seems to have declined in recent years. Remember, the map said seven lots, and I found five. Minus 112 spots, by the map's shaky count.
Who's Looking After This Mess?
This business of a neighborhood getting new construction, and parking lots being turned into condos, is predictable. It's happening around the Italian Market, it's happening down by the South Street bridge. And I think it's a good thing. But there's an obvious downside.
Tectonic shifts like this call for a coordinated institutional response. If the area has lost 112 public off-street spots, maybe our city elders should look at the old Moyamensing Prison site and figure out how to add 200 spaces. I believe the merchants would appreciate our concern, as would the customers. Me included.