Ever wonder why that empty lot across from Pat’s and Geno’s has been vacant for all these years? There is more to it than you’d imagine, says City Paper’s Naked City blog, which highlighted the lot last week as its Philaphilia Empty Lot of the Week.
The story begins in 1864 when the First Presbyterian Church and its school opened there. Fast forward all the way through a renaming to St. John Nepomucene Church in 1907 and then to the mid-80s, when the church was abandoned. Enter South Philly native Joseph Gatta Jr. comes in.
According to the blog post, which was much more detailed:
“[Gatta] bought the old church for $250,000 in 1988 and was ready to re-program the site into something more fitting the immediate neighborhood, which was now home to the Pat’s and Geno’s Tourist Magnet. He sold half of his interest in the property to a developer that was going to raze the old church and install a padsite 24-hour White Castle with a surface lot and a drive-thru.”
Locals protested, thank god, and White Castle never opened (sorry Harold and Kumar). It was briefly used as a mini golf spot until 1996 when the sister of the owner of Pat’s steaks bought the lot. In 2005, a mural of South Philly musicians was created including local favorites such as Jerry Blavat and Frankie Avalon, thus cementing the lot’s state in the neighborhood and trouncing basically any chance of development.
How can this be solved? Apparently it can’t. The lot is not for sale or lease.
But we really don’t do it justice. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the full post. It’s interesting/infuriating.