West Philly

More accurately, for the last six months

Over the weekend, we made an early-morning trip to Trader Joe's (no lines before 9am on a Sunday!) and afterward we decided to take a detour through West Philly to see whether we could stumble upon any theretofore unknown construction. We sadly came up empty on the construction front, but we did spy something exciting and at the very least new to us. Crossing the Schuylkill via the Market Street Bridge, we discovered a collection of planters on both sides of the bridge, and four pergolas to boot.

Planters in the foreground along with the two newest Cira buildings plus the IRS building
North side of Market Street, looking east toward Center City
Greenery plus 30th Street Station and the original Cira Centre

Thousands of people cross this bridge every day, and these planters surely make the trip a little more pleasant. But where did they come from? When did they arrive on the scene?

Still a shame about the buildings that have been lost

We're a little embarrassed. When we told you a couple weeks ago about two missing Frank Furness Victorian twins at 3935 and 3937 Chestnut St., we were able to determine that the Ronald McDonald House had purchased the properties but we didn't know what they were planning for the large site. Commenters quickly filled in the information gap, sharing the news that RMH would be constructing an addition. We could have found this out for ourselves, had we just taken note of the sign on the fence next door.

Just like its newer neighbor

Back in 2014, we first covered an interesting development case at 245 S. 45th St., where an old derelict Victorian rowhome was being torn down and replaced with a fifteen unit building, taking up another vacant parcel next door. We then checked back in on the project last summer to find it completely built out but still missing its facade. At that time, it was becoming ever more obvious that this building was not going to fit very well into the neighborhood of beautiful architecture. Here's what the building looks like today:

New apartment building on the right, traditional Spruce Hill home on the left

Not terrible, but not great either. In case you didn't notice it in the photo, there's a gaping hole right in between the newer building and the older ones. Just last summer, this lot held a perfectly functioning 6 bedroom rental house, practically identical to its neighbors, renting out for $2300 a month. It was torn down over the past few months and it looks like a new building, which will copy the format of its brand new neighbor, will be built in its stead. Last year, the property was sold to an owner under the name South Fortyfive 243 for the sizable sum of $400K.

Expansion coming for Ronald McDonald House?

Passing by the Hub buildings the other day, we happened upon a vacant lot that we weren't expecting to find. Until very recently, you'd have seen two Frank Furness designed Victorian twins at 3935 and 3937 Chestnut St., sitting in the shadow of the newer Hub building.

View in the past from Google Time Machine

The scene is quite different today.

Now it's a vacant lot

So... what gives?

Permits for the property only indicate demolition and "unity of use" with two adjacent parcels. So our first guess was that a third Hub building was in the offing, or perhaps the owners of the apartment buildings wanted to use this big lot for parking purposes.

Harry is getting jealous

Cross the South Street Bridge these days and you'll notice that Penn Tower is slowly shrinking.

Penn Tower, view from South Street Bridge

This building, winner of no architectural awards, has been a part of the West Philly skyline for four decades, first functioning as a Hilton hotel and slowly turning into an office building for the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania over the years. Late last year, the hospital started demolition work at the adjacent parking garage and over the last few months they've been demolishing the building one story at a time. According to HUP, the demolition process is moving slowly due to the location of the structure, surrounded by other hospital buildings and the Penn Museum. We're generally fascinated by demolition, and this is one that's worth seeing in person. For more details about the demolition, read this.