West Philly

Student housing isn't slowing down in University City

If you've followed the University City thread here then you're likely familiar with the flash of redevelopment that whipped through the 4000 block of Baring Street two years ago and kept on going to the 4100 block, transforming a block of vacant lots and older homes into student housing. Located just north of Market Street and just west of Lancaster Avenue, these blocks have proven attractive to developers and then students, with all of the new units occupied and more coming down the pipeline.

Today, we look at a couple of projects just one block to the north. Two years ago, the 4000 block of Spring Garden was host to a few vacant parcels, and at the end of the block on the northeast corner of Spring Garden & Budd, a three-story home was under construction after a fire.

In the past

After a long time, construction still doesn't look finished. Unfortunately, the renovation efforts have totally stripped out the architectural details that made the building so wonderful before it burned. Fortunately, the others on the block still look pretty great, at least from a distance. Meanwhile, at 4080 Spring Garden St., a new building with a third-floor setback is under construction on a former vacant lot. More student housing to come, surely.

Shocking number of units

A reader tipped us off last week that a rowhome had been demolished on the 4200 block of Chester Ave., around the corner from Clark Park and next door to the District 3 Health Center. We passed by the other day and discovered that the old building at 4213 Chester Ave. has indeed been demolished and there's now formwork in place for a new foundation.

In the past
Current view

When we went by, we figured that this would soon be the site of a new West Philly apartment building, likely covering the same footprint as the old home that was demolished. We figured there would maybe be six units max. Instead, according to the L&I Map, the developers, who bought the property earlier this year for $650K, are building a 26-unit building. Wowza. There will be eight bicycle parking spots, and no street parking. Though they needed a variance, we're pretty sure it was only needed to accommodate an extra unit or two. The lot is a surprising 11,500 sqft, which allows for a ton of units by right.

Such a missed opportunity

We've lost count of the number of churches that have been demolished by developers in recent years in favor of residential development. We've seen it in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood (repeatedly), West Poplar, Francisville, and may soon see it happen in Fishtown. Though it's surely happened, we can't recall a situation where a church has been torn down in favor or a purely commercial endeavor, but that's exactly what's happened at 40th & Sansom, just off Penn's campus. When we last visited the site, the handsome stone Methodist Episcopal Church had just come down.

In the past

At the time, we reminded you that P&A Associates, the guys that built the Murano, were planning a one-story commercial building for this site, with room for retailers like a pizza shop and a froyo place. We expressed disappointment that such a nice building was being swapped for a retail-only structure without any residential component. Especially with the Radian almost next door, some height for this location seems like a no-brainer. Alas, here's what we'll be stuck with for a couple of generations:

And not a moment too soon

Over three years ago, we made our first visit to the 4000 block of Baring Street. Back then, developers were building the first wave of student housing on this block, and the tide of new construction has continued pretty much unabated ever since. As we speak (er, type) there are several projects ongoing within a stone's throw of this block, some of which we'll be covering in the near future. But today we wanted to direct our attention to a building we noticed three long summers ago, just north of Baring Street.

In the past

404-08 N. 40th St. stood in strong contrast to the new construction around the corner. What looked like it could have once been a nice building had fallen into disrepair and vacancy. The front porch looked like a cinderblock wall covered in green stucco. The masonry on the facade looked to be disrepair, and the cornice was crumbling. While there's no graffitti apparent in the photo above, we definitely spotted some at our first visit.

Pedestrian plaza is becoming permanent

When we passed by 42nd & Woodland across from University of the Sciences a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked to see a big pile of dirt and a tractor instead of the tables and landscaping that made up Woodland Green. You may recall, this pedestrian plaza was fabricated at the triangular concrete parcel at that intersection by University City District a couple summers back.