Is There a Café in the House?

Headhouse Cafe RenderingsCenter City Philadelphia is in the midst of an urban renaissance.

For the first time since the 1950’s the census will show an increase in the city’s population.

The city’s restaurant scene is exploding with tons of new spots, including our new Iron Chef star Jose Garces’ & Philly pioneer Stephen Starr’s recent openings with more on the way.

However, funding for public spaces is scarce. (See: threat of no holiday lighting in Rittenhouse Square; on a larger scale, major downsizing & possible closures of the entire Pennsylvania park system.)

Because of this, several neighborhoods are leaning on the restaurant boom: Cafe Cret opened on the Ben Franklin Parkway, and Franklin Square enjoyed great success bringing in SquareBurger.

South Street Headhouse District might be next.

A multi-step improvement plan is in the works. Philly Councilman Frank DiCicco secured money for the already-completed first phase. This past week saw the dedication of a new fountain at 2nd & Lombard.

The fountain, which had been in disrepair, now boasts a child-friendly, rubberized basin, colorful LED lighting and more seating. New, programmable water jets feature an ananemometer to measure wind speed and automatically adjust the height of the spray.

On one side of the fountain sit the Headhouse Shambles — home to one of Philly’s biggest & best farmers’ markets. On the other currently sits a mishmosh of parking spaces & asphalt.

Cope Linder Architects, who provided the design for Phase 1, have ready a preliminary design for this area which would reclaim much of the space from cars.

fountainIt involves an expanded, landscaped pedestrian walkway from the fountain up to the South Street end of the block, where a pavilion with a café will be built. Such a café might bring not only a steady stream of revenue from concession sales, but also encourage more pedestrian traffic for neighboring establishments.

Barry Essinger of Cope Linder even brought up the possibility of closing off the whole street on weekends or holidays, creating a vibrant. car-free mall like those in Buenos Aires or the new Times Square.

South Street is already morphing into a much nicer, more upscale tourist destination. This redevelopment would be a welcome bridge from South to historic Society Hill, and even all the way to Independence Mall and Old City.

Build it! (and they will come….)