The Piazza at Schmidts Review

I’m back in NoLibs for the second week in a row to check out this booming little community’s newest attraction: an array of super-cool retail shops and restaurants.

I keep getting excited about Northern Liberties! To be honest, it’s an area that I really don’t know very well — but I’m starting to, and the more I do, the more I think that Philly is just the coolest city ever. But I digress …

I have been reading and hearing about The Piazza at Schmidts (I still think its name is too much of a mouthful — but there’s history in it; check out that cool story as well as developer Bart Blatstein’s plan for the entire area) for many weeks now, and I just couldn’t picture where in the neighborhood of Northern Liberties they were going to plunk down a whole friggin’ community with oodles of new restaurants, shops, galleries and open spaces. And to tell you the truth, I can’t even picture what it looked like before. But now, the east side of North 2nd Street, up at Germantown and right across from the beginning of Liberties Walk, has become this whole little world that you all seriously need to check out.

Picture a wide-open piazza (or square, or courtyard) that is surrounded on all sides by super cool, modern loft buildings, which are filled with apartments and offices. Then all along the bottom of those buildings are nestled the awesome shops and restaurants (most open up into the 80,000-square-foot piazza; some have entrances on 2nd Street, too). There’s Millésime, Moxie Jane, Lyla Designs, Mason du Very Bad Horse, msquaredcreation, Print Liberation, Space 75 and Delicious Boutique and Corseterie, which sell clothing, home accessories, handbags and jewelry (lots of which are locally made).

There are music and magic stores and art galleries and photography studios. Genes urban baby boutique has packed up its shop on 13th Street and set up here in the piazza. And Two Paper Dolls, who we heart for all our paper-product needs (their invites are just too cute), has opened up Pressed 55, a new gallery space for their gorgeous letterpress designs. And to eat? There’s The Pink Dolphin, a deli; Vino, an Italian wine bar serving pasta and pizza; Darling’s Diner, in all its 1950s glory; and P.Y.T., a nightlife-burger joint, which, yes, will get Michael Jackson stuck in your head as soon as you see it, and does have a fabulous ’80s vibe.

But what you’ll probably see first when you arrive is the gigantic high def LED TV screen mounted on the brick wall above a 40-by-20-foot stage, upon which there will be festivals, live music shows, dance performances—you name it—almost every night, weather permitting. If there’s nothing going on live, well, they’ll just have the Phillies game on (you can see the schedule on the website).

This is the type of thing that can really make a difference to a neighborhood—and in this economy, I can’t help but feel like it’s going to bring a jolt to the entire area, and go down on a list of ways Philly is really making sure we’re going to thrive our way through this. Because believe me, this summer, Northern Liberties will be blowing up.