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Neighbors grieve demolition of Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia

Neighbors grieve the demolition of the Melrose Diner in South Philly
Neighbors grieve the demolition of the Melrose Diner in South Philly 01:40

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Neighbors took pictures and shed tears Wednesday while watching the demolition of the iconic Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia.

READ MORE: Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia to be demolished, zoning permit says

"The apple pie with vanilla sauce and their buttercream cake. Nobody can make that like they did," Ingrid Capocci said. 

For Capocci, the memories read like a menu. The same was true for Antoine Nazario.

"The hamburgers. I love the hamburgers. I love coming here chanting on the Eagles. I would have a green beard on right now, but it washed out," Nazario said. 

They watched as workers tore down their beloved Melrose Diner at 15th St., Passyunk Ave., and Snyder Ave. 

CBS News Philadelphia

The diner had been there since the 1950s. Zoning records showed an apartment complex will be built there. The owner said he hoped to reopen the diner on the first floor. But for neighbors, there would be nothing like the old place, where it was about more than the food.

"Being here with family and a lot of friends," said Chris Palmer as he fought back tears while thinking about eating here with his father-in-law, Michael Troy, who Palmer said died Tuesday, and a 90-year-old friend named Maria, who was in the hospital Wednesday. Palmer said Maria was often at the diner with her late husband.

"They were always here, giving candy to kids and stuff. So uh, yeah. Um…" He paused. "It seems hard to replace the memories. It's going to be hard."

Jen Sanders said she was also disturbed by seeing the wreckage.

"It was just a place where people could go and just sit and have a cup of coffee, and not have to worry about inflation," she said.

That inflation is why she is also angry. The owner said he would try to rebuild the diner on the first floor of a new apartment building that zoning documents showed will eventually stand at Passyunk Ave., Snyder Ave., and 15th St. The possible rent costs were unclear. However, Sanders worried they would be unaffordable.

"You can't find a place to rent for under a thousand dollars anymore," she said. "There were people who maybe couldn't afford their rent that was hanging out a Melrose that had a nice meal and a safe spot to go to."

Even if the Melrose returns, Sanders said she worried rising rents across our area will make a piece of the community disappear. 

"It's just sad that this whole area is going to now be untouchable for most people in Philadelphia," she said.

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