When Chef Alex Boonphaya came to Philadelphia from Thailand five years ago, his chief concern in selecting a location for his next restaurant was cost.
He bought a building on the 1500 block of Tasker Street, moved upstairs and, on the street level, replaced a bulletproof-glass-divided Chinese restaurant with Thai takeout spot Circles.
“The neighborhood seemed like it had a strong potential for change, and it was close to Broad Street,” says Boonphaya, who has since opened a sit-down directly across the street that recently won a Best of Philly award.
Like Boonphaya’s restaurants, the neighborhood around him has come a long way, fast. Dubbed “Newbold,” it makes up the eastern portion of South Philly’s Point Breeze. The rebranding insulted many longtime residents, resulting in an abundance of overlapping civic groups and tension. To one of the city’s chief planners, it’s not the best way to redevelop a neighborhood.
“My initial reaction was, ‘What is Newbold?’ It’s not a name that meant anything to me. Point Breeze means something to me,” said Commerce Director Alan Greenberger. “I don’t generally like to see this stuff happen, because I think it’s probably more divisive than it needs to be.”
But civic associations insist the newer name is not about establishing a trendy real estate district.
“While it’s true that 10 years ago, no one who lived here was calling it ‘Newbold,’ few people this far from Point Breeze Ave. were calling it ‘Point Breeze,’ either,” said John Resta, president of the Newbold Neighbors Association. “I call it ‘Newbold’ because it’s more precise than the vastness of ‘Point Breeze’ or ‘South Philly.’”