In the spring of 2012, a Subway franchise opened near 46th & Baltimore. At the time, several neighbors decried the move- some were upset because it was a chain and others that were worried customers would zip in and out of a parking alley behind the adjacent homes.
The store had a 10-year-lease, but it closed this past winter. At the time, the Spruce Hill Community Association was told that Subway was actively engaging new tenants for the spot. But the space, at 4533 Baltimore Ave., has remained shuttered. Now, plans for a new tenant have emerged and work has been ongoing at the site.
In terms of development, it's been anything but quiet over in West Philly lately. Consider, we've seen consistent institutional building in University City by big names like Drexel, Penn, and the University City Science Center; driving through University City, one can see a bunch of big new buildings sprinkled around, especially on Chestnut and Market Streets.
Now University Realty is joining the fray, with plans for the redevelopment of a long worn corner at 45th & Walnut that last hosted a Halal shop that has since been demolished. The shop closed three years ago, leaving a vacant building and a large parking lot. The developers are planning a 40-unit apartment building for the site, per West Philly Local. This would make sense for these guys, who specialize in student housing rentals.
In West Philly, change has finally occurred on the southwest corner of 46th & Sansom, a parcel that has been vacant for many years. A little over a year ago, we noticed the beginnings of construction activity at this site, and mentioned plans for six quadplexes. Last winter, it looked like the project was stalled, though we were pleased to see some blighted buildings getting torn down across the street.
Now a vacant lot on the southeast corner
Last month, West Philly Local reported that building was happening on the southwest corner, with a flatbed dropping off modular sections of new buildings. The project is called Sansom Street Flats, and has changed somewhat since our original report. Instead of quadplexes, it's triplexes. Like much of the construction in West Philadelphia in recent years, the architecture won't really do justice to the existing buildings in the neighborhood. We wish the developers would have opted for something that looked like the buildings that once stood here but that was probably a pipe dream.
Last month, Orens Brothers appeared at the tail end of a community zoning meeting to informally present the plans, and to gauge reactions from neighbors, according to SHCA zoning chair Barry Grossbach. For it to happen, the project would demolish vacant and occupied homes and a building that stretches from Chestnut to Ludlow Street. It would include some PRA-owned properties, according to Grossbach. It's still to be determined how the ownership agreements will work out.
The corner of 32nd & Race is pretty much on the border of Drexel's campus, but in the coming decades that stands to change. East of 32nd Street are the Septa railyards, the development of which are part of Drexel's Master Plan. That plan will take quite some time to execute, and it's entirely possible that the rail yards will look as they do today in thirty years. But we can say with some great confidence that the surface lot on the northwest corner of 32nd & Race will be changing much more quickly. And for the better.