A little over a year ago, we told you about a new building under construction at 17 S. 44th St., on the southeast corner of 44th & Ludlow. The building was notable in part because its construction was covering up the views of a mural on the northern wall of 21 S. 44th St. which pays tribute to the local Ethiopian community.
In the past
But perhaps even more noticeable, we expressed that the building would ultimately rise up to five stories, and would tower over all the other buildings in the vicinity. As we told you before, the height of the building was permitted by right because the property is zoned CMX-4, a zoning designation that doesn't seem to fit with the surrounding neighborhood and would likely get remapped if such a thing happened in this part of town. With a relatively small 15'x78' footprint, we'd have never expected a developer to build such a tall building, but here we are:
We first noticed signs on construction at 4054-64 Powelton Ave. back in August, prompting us to reach out to the owner of the property to ask what was happening. We weren't sure whether the home and warehouse on the property were simply getting renovated, or whether they'd perhaps get demolished in favor of some new student housing. Passing by in early September, we saw that the buildings had indeed been demolished, making the idea of student housing feel like a bit of a foregone conclusion.
Early this summer, we told you about some nascent construction activity at 4215 Chestnut St., previously the site of a catering hall. At that point, we guessed from the location, the scale of the building, and the construction permit that we found online that the building would be another structure meant to house students attending the nearby universities. After all, the much publicized and controversial new construction at 4044 Chestnut Street, which is a similar development on the surface and only two blocks away, was built solely to house students. Since we have some contacts with the developer, we thought it would be a good idea to reach out and find out some more details.
Last year, news broke that Post Brothers, the well-known and sometimes controversial development firm which owns various apartment buildings throughout the city, was heavily investing in the neighborhoods surrounding University City. They bought seven properties in the area and planned on substantial renovations for all of them, with Hamilton Court at 39th & Chestnut as one of the more significant acquisitions. This property was built in 1901, in the heyday of aristocratic West Philadelphia, as a luxurious apartment building amongst mostly older single family houses and mansions. The building is U-shaped and was set up to emphasize the inner courtyard which contained gardens and a fountain.
As a result of a growing student population and physical campus of University of Pennsylvania, this property eventually turned into an building that almost exclusively houses Penn undergrads. Prior to the Post Brothers acquisition, the building was under the ownership of a company that only invested enough in the building to keep it habitable. We're using the term habitable pretty liberally, by the way. Thankfully, we've been told that interior renovations are currently underway. Here's what the building looks like now: