West Philly

Home looked like it was in good shape

Passing through West Philly the other day, we noticed some new construction on the 3800 block of Hamilton. The new building at 3810 Hamilton St., recently framed, sticks out from a distance as it rises above its neighbor.

View from the corner of 38th & Hamilton

Looking at the project, we assumed that the new structure was replacing a vacant lot or perhaps a blighted building. But we were wrong. About five years ago, the property was listed for sale as a four-bedroom single-family home and it was apparently in pretty good shape. According to the listing, the property had undergone some renovation but maintained some original architectural details as well. Looking at an old photo, it looks like it was a twin with the home next door.

A bunch of new units and more on the way

There's some development brewing on and around the 4600 block of Sansom Street. Last summer, we visited this block to check in on a row of prefabricated apartment buildings. It seems that development has been something of a catalyst for other projects in the neighborhood which have begun construction since. The most newsworthy is a whole range of vacant properties in the immediate vicinity, including 4611, 4612-4620, 4613, 4619, and 4621 Sansom Street as well as 125-129 and 133-135 S. 46th Street. That's fourteen vacant tracts of land, all told. All of these properties were owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and were sold to Sansom Street Development, LP, which is a moniker for Charles Lomax of Lomax Real Estate Partners, for a sum of $499,500. That breaks down to roughly $36K per lot. According to a few details published in meeting notes for the PRA, the developers plan on building a triplex on each lot consisting of 2 bed/2 bath apartments. Beyond that, we're not sure what these buildings will look like, but we can show you what the lots look like now.

We'd thought this building would be demolished

The 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue has seen some changes in the last few years, notably with a few new businesses joining the corridor. Vix Emporium offers a collection of gifty items, mostly made by locals. Pound Cake Heaven is a small local bakery with especially tasty pound cake, as you might expect. And one of these days, maybe the long-planned Babylon Bistro will open its doors as well.

Babylon Bistro still happening?

When we passed by recently, we stopped dead in our tracks when we spied another business on the block which wasn't there before. At some point over the summer, event space Petite Fete opened their doors at 5042 Baltimore Ave., on the first floor of a building that had been sitting vacant and blighted for years. A couple years ago, there was talk that this building and a few of its neighbors would be demolished and the site would be redeveloped by the Mercy Wellness Center, but it looks like that plan fell by the wayside. It's also worth noting, the neighboring buildings still look like they're in rough shape but they look much better than they did previously.

Big new building is a nice addition

When we last checked in on the Summit at University City project at 34th & Lancaster a little over a year ago, the building had been topped off and window installation was well underway. At the time, we told you that the project would mean 1,300 beds over a variety of floor plans and 20,000 sqft of retail space divided into different sized spaces. We also told you that the building would be ready for occupancy for the fall 2015 semester and that appears to be exactly what happened. Passing by recently, we noticed a new Starbucks and some other newish stores. MSC Retail is listing the remaining retail space.

Summit at University City

Half a block away, we noticed some additional construction. Previously, 116-18 N. 34th St. was home to a bland two-story home and a surface parking lot. The building has been torn down and now there's a foundation and the beginning of an elevator shaft on site.

But we wonder about some buildings that aren't making the cut

The campus of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company at 4601 Market St. has been a gargantuan ghost of West Philadelphia's economically prosperous past for years. Vacated by the company in 1983, it was transferred to various organizations with big hopes and visions for community benefit. The building eventually got the best of all of them, proving to be too large and expensive for any to handle. In 2008, the building was acquired by the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID).

In 2012, we learned of the the City's plan to re-purpose the building for the City's public safety and health services, including the Police Headquarters, the Morgue, and various Department of Public Health offices and ground was broken in 2014. Currently, the building is being gutted and prepared for the renovation. However, ever since the City announced its plans, it has been playing its hand pretty close to its chest. And we only got a full view of what the final product would be last month. The full plan went mostly under the radar of most local media outlets and we wanted to share a few images and plans from the plan with you.

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