It’s got a bit of an identity crisis, the neighborhood bounded by South Street and Washington Avenue to the north and south, and Broad Street and the Schuylkill River to the east and west. Variously called Southwest Center City, Graduate (or Grad) Hospital, G-Ho, South of South or SoSo, this neighborhood’s convenience to Center City and relative affordability has made it a popular spot for Philly homebuyers.
As buyers were priced out of the City’s most central residential neighborhood, Rittenhouse Square, Graduate Hospital became an appealing alternative. A ten-year tax abatement program for new construction and rehabs made buying in Graduate Hospital particularly attractive to developers. One of the first to take notice was Toll Brothers, which in 2004 converted what was once the first U S Naval Academy, then a retirement home for sailors, into an upscale gated community. Naval Square now houses luxury townhomes and apartments set on a leafy 20-acre campus notable for its suburban ambience.
But there were also plenty of opportunities for individual buyers willing to put in some sweat equity. James Shaver, a realtor with The Mickey Pascarella Group of Keller Williams Realty, says “the proximity to Center City made Graduate Hospital one of the most logical places for distressed homes to be flipped when the tax abatement went into effect because [it] blends the vitality of Center City living with the quiet, more residential feel of neighborhoods further south.”
A largely residential neighborhood, Graduate Hospital is peaceful, says Shaver, “but offers great proximity to the thriving nightlife of Center City.” While narrow streets mean “there’s less traffic outside your house,” he cautions that residents without garages will have to cope with limited street parking.
The neighborhood boasts plenty of recreational space, however, with five parks which Shaver says “are constantly busy with events, leagues and other functions that make Graduate Hospital a great place to get active no matter if it’s an adult beer league or tee-ball.” On its western edge, a ramp from the South Street Bridge provides access to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, a 2,000-foot-long over-the-water pathway that extends the Schuylkill River Trail.
John Featherman, associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services – Fox & Roach Realtors, calls Graduate Hospital “the new southern portion of Rittenhouse Square, a fully developed luxury neighborhood, with luxury prices to match.” It’s true that houses here – mostly row homes – have significantly risen in value in recent years, but the median sale price of $356,000 for a single family home is still about half that of a similar residence in Rittenhouse Square. Shaver cites a movement in the area to build more condos or to rezone townhomes into condo spaces as proof that the neighborhood hasn’t yet been priced out of reach: the median sale price for a condo in the neighborhood is comparatively affordable at $262,000.
While Graduate Hospital remains largely residential, the area is beginning to attract more businesses that cater to new residents. In addition to the corner bars and delis that have always been mainstays here, Graduate Hospital is increasingly seeing “upscale dining that used to be confined to Rittenhouse Square,” says Shaver. He recommends Honey’s Sit N Eat, a BYO, cash-only spot known for its home-style fare. It’s one of the many restaurants and bars that dot South Street between Broad and the Schuylkill, an international mix that includes Jamaican, Thai, Mexican and Indian cuisine.
A portion of the neighborhood lies within the desirable Greenfield School catchment, making Graduate Hospital attractive to families with school-age children. Its proximity to University City also makes it convenient for anyone who works at nearby Drexel, UPenn or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which is expanding its facilities into the neighborhood along Schuylkill Avenue.
ON THE MARKET
301 Surgeon General Ct.
3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths
If you want to live in a secure gated community, this Naval Square townhouse features lots of natural light and views of a 20-acre park, with picnic areas, well-maintained gardens and mature trees. An expanded custom kitchen has the most up-to-date appliances and finishes and opens on to an expansive terrace made for entertaining. The sunny master suite boasts vaulted ceilings and a huge walk-in closet. There’s also a house-wide audio system and attached garage, as well as access to a state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool.
1607 Catharine St., Unit 1A
2 beds 2 baths
Built in 1922, the Catharine Street Y was once an important recreation and community center hosting political gatherings and art exhibits. Recently refurbished, it’s now a luxury apartment building. Retaining its original architecture, 11-foot ceilings and 9.5-foot windows, this apartment has lots of natural light. It also features a sleek gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and a slate glass subway tile backsplash. Two spacious bedrooms and two full baths feature contemporary design, and an in-unit washer/dryer adds convenience.
Contact: OCF Realty, (215) 735-7368, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sidecar Bar & Grille
This longtime neighborhood stalwart recently changed hands, with the original owner selling to über developer Ori Feibush, who’s mostly made his mark on the Point Breeze neighborhood to the south. Regulars will be happy that the vibe promises to remain unchanged, a successful formula of beer and house made burgers like the Blue Ribbon (two patties, oxtail marmalade and bone marrow-parsley butter). To really make a pig of yourself, stop by on “Pork Me Sunday” for Carnitas and BBQ pulled pork.
2201 Christian St. thesidecarbar.com
Devil’s Pocket Food & Spirits
On the western reaches of Graduate Hospital sits a three-square block area known as Devil’s Pocket which reportedly got its name from a priest who lamented that neighborhood kids were such reprobates they would steal from the devil’s own pocket. What started as a slur is now a badge of honor and the inspiration for this neighborhood tavern emphasizing fresh ingredients and local and craft beer. Try the “Hell in a Handbasket” cheese fries, spiced with chili and jalapenos.
2425 Grays Ferry Ave. devilspocketphilly.com
WHAT IT COSTS
$355,757 median sale price for a single-family home
$2,100 per month median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment
$262,000 median sale price for a two-bedroom condo
New in the Neighborhood:
An empty lot most recently used as parking for the nearby Rock School is on its way to becoming Philly’s next luxury apartment complex. When complete in late 2018, Lincoln Square will be a mixed-use development featuring more than 300 apartments and lots of retail space. Developers are also keeping a historic train shed on the site, transforming it into a supermarket, a welcome addition to a neighborhood which currently has few options for grocery shopping