When Mark and Sylvia Sobol were toying with the idea of moving from Northeast Philly to Center City, several years after emigrating from the Ukraine and Armenia, their friends thought they were crazy.
“In the Northeast they would all say, ‘Don’t go, it’s not a place for children.’ But we love the urban lifestyle,” says Sylvia, 31, a music teacher and mom to 4-year-old Paul-Simon and 17-month-old Isabella. Mark also teaches music.
But once the Sobols got settled in their Washington Square West home, they looked around and found a neighborhood teeming with kids — and nowhere for them to go.
Last month, after a year of planning, the Sobols opened EuroKids Learning Group, a day care and after-school enrichment center at 1134 Pine St., in the overlapping Wash West/Gayborhood neighborhoods. And they’re not the only ones who realized kid-centric spots were in demand in an area once associated primarily with its hopping nightlife scene.
“This area wasn’t child-oriented whatsoever. You had the parents here, but not the services,” Sylvia says. “Then over this summer all these kid-oriented businesses just popped out.”
One of the most noticeable is Nest, a 12,000-square-foot space with an indoor playground, activity rooms, a portrait studio, a kids’ hair salon, a toy and clothing boutique and a lounge for weary parents. It opened in August in the former Signatures strip club at 13th and Locust streets.
“We wanted Nest to be hip and cool, and the neighborhood is perfect for that,” says Farrell Ender, half of one of the three couples, all with young kids, behind Nest.
As for the nightlife, Ender says it hasn’t been an issue.
“It’s like two worlds,” he says. “During the day, all you see is moms and strollers walking by. Then it’s a totally different scene at night. The neighborhood is unique that way.”
Playground upgrades soon
Friends of Seger Park Playground, a nonprofit formed by local parents to improve the popular Wash West playground, is raising $1.4 million for a major overhaul. The renovations will include new equipment and a water “sprayground” (since you’re not supposed to open fire hydrants).
“It’s such a heavily used park. At any one time, you might have 100 children,” says Adrienne Kenton, head of the organization and a mother of two. “And it’s such a great resource for parents in the neighborhood, to meet up and exchange information.”