The northwest corner of 13th and Locust St.
Aiming to open in August, NEST will provide parents and kids with an indoor play space to enjoy. A popular offering in major cities across the US, and even as close as Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia is finally catching up and parents will only have to go as far as 13th and Locust Sts. to take advantage of a roomy, bright and clean space built for both kids and parents. This will be especially great in the cold and wet months ahead.
Occupying the former Signatures strip club in the heart of the Gayborhood (or Midtown Village, if you insist), NEST is definitely a sign of changing times. As a recent Daily News article highlighted, raising kids in Philly is now a norm, and services in Center City seem to be catching up.
The 15,000 square foot building was previously slated to become a restaurant called Remy’s, with architecture by Philadelphia firm Always by Design. In 2009, construction was halted in as funds ran low, but not before a fully equipped restaurant kitchen was installed in the basement with all new appliances. This is where Green Eggs Cafe comes in, which will be teaming up with NEST to open their third location: a 2000 square foot restaurant adjacent to and accessible from NEST.
The space for NEST itself will be impressive, with high ceilings throughout and 3 full floors of smartly designed play areas. The main floor at street level will be a mostly open floor plan containing a registration desk to welcome members and visitors, a large stroller-friendly coat room, a small cafe to purchase food and drink, a lounge for parents to congregate and socialize, and a bright retail space that shouldn’t have too much competition from the its forebears. Also tucked away on this floor, a small salon for kids’ cuts and a photo studio, making this a one-stop shop for parents seeking something more hip than a Sears portrait.
Clever lighting and a little ceiling trompe l’oeil will create a bright and playful ambiance in the basement. After leaving their shoes in a cubby, kids and parents will run, jump and play in a large open space with soft, grass-colored Flor carpeting that will be filled with fantastic and dreamy installments to brighten any winter day. The climbing structures and imaginative play areas are all being fashioned out of birch, and other materials throughout the building are eco-friendly and recycled. The owners have small children themselves, and avoiding chemical contaminants was important to them. One area will almost mimic a mini Please Touch Museum with a life-sized birdhouse to explore and a farmer’s market at which to “shop” with pint-sized shopping carts and wooden fruits and veggies. There will also be a separate crawler section as a safe spot for NEST’s smallest members. There will be on-site cleaning staff to keep the place as germ-free as possible, and each bathroom has adorable kid-sized sinks and toilets alongside adult-sized ones.
On the second floor, a full wall of light from the large East facing windows will fill a wide, airy hallway that will also allow light into the windowed enrichment classrooms and a fully equipped kids’ gym, with all the tumbling mats a parent could want to exercise and exhaust their children. The enrichment programs will include arts and crafts, hip hop and ballet dance, music, yoga, cooking, infant massage, pre-natal yoga and more for parents and children. Specialty camps will offer a focus on cooking and lessons on rotating cultures.
The play space and classes are unlimited to those with a membership, but those without can also register individually for the classes and camps. Birthday parties and planning are welcome, and an existing structure in the basement lends itself to a possible brick oven pizza offering in the future. Membership details and price points are still being worked out by the owners, and no renderings of the interior have been made available.
The group of owners, while admittedly not in the childcare or education arenas prior to this venture, seems to be doing it right by
turning to experienced professionals. Program Manager, Audrey Zapletal, MS OTR/L, is in charge of curriculum planning and facilitator hiring and has an established career of building recreational and learning programs for children. The owners are full of excitement and passion for the project, which they should be as it’s offering a new and needed dynamic to our ever-changing and growing city. We can’t wait for this thing to finally hatch.
Looking west down Locust St.
– Lauren Summers