Old City District Cleans and Greens Long-Blighted Lot on Market Street

"This was beyond an eyesore. It was a nuisance."

240 Market Street before Old City District got their hands on it. | Photo: Old City District

240 Market Street before Old City District got their hands on it. | Photo: Old City District

With development booming up and down Market Street from river to river, there is one spot that now sticks out above the rest–the long vacant and blighted lot at 240 Market Street, next to the newish 7-11 storefront in Old City. I passed by the scene last night, thoroughly expecting to shake my ever-judging head at a wasted piece of prime real estate. To my surprise, it’s been cleaned up and greened up! In my haste, I snapped a quick picture and my mind was sent racing. So, is something in the works?

In short: yes and no.

Job Itzkowitz, executive director of Old City District, tells Property that the lot has been on his radar since he took over the gig about a year ago. Over the years, the lot–which also includes 245 Elbow Lane–became known among neighbors as the biggest eyesore in Old City. Not only would people sleep in it, notes Itzkowitz, it was used as a restroom as well other unsightly and illegal activities, including (but not limited to) drug use, illegal short dumping and parking. “[The lot] was beyond an eyesore. It was a nuisance.”

Progress was being made last night. | Photo: James Jennings

Progress was being made last night.

Now, with the help of landscaping company Composite Inc., Old City District has struck a deal with the owner the lot, the estate of Julius Gordon, to beautify the property. Itzkowitz says the license allows for “setting up and maintaining a temporary beautification project” at the site. There’s a catch, it’s not for public use (ie: no trespassing, people) and it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be redeveloped anytime soon.

“There are no development plans right now,” says Itzkowitz. “Conceptually speaking, it would be great if we could use the space if it’s not going to be developed.” As of now, though, it’s just a cleaning and greening project. “I wanted to take a baby step. First, let’s make it clean and eradicate the blight.”

It’s still a huge win for the neighborhood in the short term. The large mounds of dirt have been leveled and new grass has been planted. Michael LoFurno of Composite Inc. said that it wasn’t the ideal weather to plant grass given the extreme heat, but that he’s been out there watering it to make sure it makes it through the next couple of days. He explained that the neighbors are “delighted” to see the progress, which also includes a new wooden fence and plantings around the perimeter of the lot.

The lot has an interesting history, to put it lightly. It has sat vacant for nearly 30 years, after a fire tore through the former auction house of Julius Gordon in 1987. His son, Victor B. Gordon, is the executor of the estate and reached an agreement with Old City District for the beautification project “about a month or two ago,” according to Itzkowitz. Gordon, who was an African art dealer in Old City, was sentenced in June 2014 “to 30 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release, for smuggling elephant ivory into the United States,” according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice.

Needless to say, we’re glad the two entities could finally come to some sort of agreement in order to green the lot.