Let's start with Panama Street. This is an old street that has seen hard use and survived in very good shape. Its scars (have a look at the tree behind the dog walker) should be seen as badges of honor. I don't want to turn Philadelphia into Disneyland.
I think this is one of the most beautiful streets in Philadelphia. On my rating scale (see Center City Quarterly, Fall 2015, p. 1), I give it an A. I choose not to see its flaws, and it sparks joy. Make that an A+.
|Pavement on Panama Street|
I think part of the problem is that the alley is so wide. The gates simply aren't tall enough to provide closure.
What to do? Sidewalks would be nice; they would help define the space. But they would be expensive. Strings of LED lights over the parking spaces on the north side would provide an attractive visual closure, at least at night.
Have a look at the building to the left in the picture, with the red-painted brick. Call Isaiah Zagar and get a mural. One with lots of mirror shards. The light at this end is dead.
Also, the buildings on the south side might want to consider some Mediterranean pastels for their facades, which are actually quite nice in their current shades of off-white. But the block needs something. (The house facing the park, on the south side of the alley, has already made a nice start in this regard.)
|Cypress, corner of 25th|
2400 Cypress is a clean utilitarian alley. There are no derelict structures. I'll give it a B.
See also This Isn't Just Any Alley.