West Philly

Stormwater management at its finest

For those who haven't heard, last week marked the opening of a great addition to Philly's list of green spaces. Cira Green, built, owned, and operated by development powerhouse Brandywine Realty Trust, is finished and now offers some great new views of the skyline. The elevated park is built on top of an eight story parking garage in the middle of Brandywine's Cira Centre South development, between the completed Evo and the still under construction FMC tower. The total park occupies about 1.25 acres and cost around $13M to build. As you can see from the photos, the surface is mostly manicured grass and walkways with a few trees and other plants mixed in. We wonder how high those trees will eventually grow with such limited soil to grow into. Either way, they look great right now.

A view from the western end of the park

A slope was created on the western quarter of the park to give some elevation change to what would otherwise be a fairly flat space. It also provides a great seating area to view the skyline and allows you to feel like you're above it all. We can see this the green being a beautiful, even romantic place to be at night during the summer. And a fairly chilly place to be during the winter. The huge wall at 2400 Chestnut Street unfortunately blocks some of Center City from view, but it's still something to see.

Seems likely it will resemble the building next door

We first visited 40th & Baring in the summer of 2011, when we told you about a new 15-unit building under construction on the northwest corner. As the years have rolled along, we've probably been back to this intersection a dozen times to report demolition, renovation, and/or new construction within a block or two. A handful of years ago, there was hardly any new construction housing stock in this area. In the last five years, we'd estimate that over a hundred new apartments have come online around here.

Most recently, it seems we've been spending time on 40th Street just north of Baring. How Properties demolished an old warehouse and built a project with 22 apartments which has been dubbed Blockley I Apartments. Across the street, developers renovated a long blighted residential building over the course of the summer of 2014. Approaching Spring Garden Street, a row of quadplexes mostly finished up in time for the school year that started a couple months ago.

Great progress so far on a great project

Step by step, the schoolyard at Lea Elementary at 4700 Locust St. continues taking steps forward. When we first brought this school to your attention over three years ago, the Community Design Collaborative has just hosted a design charrette, examining ways to transform the schoolyard into a greener place for students and the whole community. Ideas generated at the charrette were compiled and presented to the community in January of 2013, and the "Greening Lea" effort began in earnest. About a year ago, the schoolyard added a second playground and as a result eliminated 4,400 sqft of impervious surfaces at the site. Over the summer, the first major phase of construction got underway.

Overhead view of construction. Image from WPCNS

Not only will this project manage over two acres of stormwater, but it will also create outdoor educational opportunities for students that simply weren't possible in the past. Plus, the schoolyard will look infinitely better than it ever has, which should be a point of pride for students and neighbors alike.

Building has been in poor condition for years

On the northwestern fringe of our West Philly coverage area, 5052 Walnut St. has stood vacant for years. In 2013, we had our eye on it, lamenting its poor condition, and noted that it had been in bad shape for many years. Architecturally, this building is something to look at and would really stand out in Center City, but in West Philly there are others like it. Across the street, for example. Recently, while checking in on some single-family projects in the area, we saw that the building is finally getting the attention it deserves. However, as you will see in the photo progression below, it's become clear that the building will look a bit different on the outside than it had looked before.

Mixed-use project is finished

When the Hub on Chestnut was built almost a decade ago, it added a splash of color to the West Philly skyline and a delicious dining option in the form of Distrito. As you may or may not be aware, the project was supposed to include a second building next door at 3939 Chestnut St., but that building didn't get built, ostensibly due to tough times for the economy around 2008.

In the past

But times have changed, the real estate market is flourishing in West Philly, and the second Hub building has arrived on the scene. We haven't checked in on this project in quite some time, since construction started, but as of the end of the summer, the building looks finished.