West Philly

A really nice addition

Back in August, we told you that Lea Elementary School at 47th & Locust was getting a new playground, or rather a newish playground by way of the now-closed Wilson School. At the time, Greening Lea was working to raise $3,000 to cover additional project costs, including insurance and security. That effort didn't take long, as they met their goal in less than a week when the Spruce Hill Community Association pledged $1,000 to the effort, joining several other individuals in the neighborhood.

This morning, a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the completion of this project, which also includes a new play surface under the playground that had been here previously. That play surface eliminates 4,400 sqft of impervious surface in the schoolyard. Check out this image to see the old and new playgrounds, together with the new squishy play surface.

Recent view

Of course, this doesn't represent the end of the Greening Lea process. Far from it. A much larger (and costlier) effort is on the books for after this school year. When that's finished, the Lea schoolyard should look something like this:

Comes as a shock to nobody

As the vacant land near 40th & Baring has continued to fill in with new construction student housing, it comes as no surprise that existing properties are now seeing some attention from developers as well. Last month, we directed your attention to an apartment building just north of the intersection, blighted for years, which was finally getting renovated. Today we look at 328 N. 40th St., a large building on the southwest corner.

Interior demolition is ongoing

Though the building was occupied until about a year ago, it's looked shabby for quite some time. Still, it has some nice architectural details like an intact cornice, some bay windows, and a fancy entryway. It's also got what looks like an addition on the 40th Street side which was either a functioning flower shop at one point or was intended as a flower shop but the business never happened.

A new hotel for West Philly

Over the summer, while attending a wedding in Connecticut, we stayed at a cute hotel in New Haven called The Study at Yale. Next to the elevator, there was an easel with a rendering of a future hotel, The Study at University City. It's like they knew we were coming!

Project rendering

Developers Hospitality 3 recently presented this project to Civic Design Review, clearing the way for this project to get underway on the northwest corner of 33rd & Chestnut. The building is designed by Digsau, and will stand ten stories high. It will include 212 hotel rooms, a restaurant, and meeting and banquet facilities on the second floor. The building is right on the border of Penn and Drexel, but it will apparently target Drexel families, coming to visit their kids. Currently, the James E. Marks Interculural Center building is on the site. The scale of the new building seems much more appropriate, given the location and all the institutional development taking place nearby.

But it ain't cheap

For at least a decade and surely much longer, a pet store has held down the retail space at 27-29 S. 40th St., near Penn's campus. But over that last decade, there have been plenty of changes to the surrounding area with the most notable being the construction of the Hub on Chestnut just a few doors down. With the former home of the pet store now available for sale, it seems that more change could be on the horizon.

Building on the market

The property is currently listed for sale for $879K which seems like a high price at first glance. But when you consider the fact that the lot has a footprint of over 2,500 sqft and that it's zoned CMX-4, the asking price seems like it might be met. That particular zoning designation would allow for a seven story apartment building by right, which would seem like a wise choice considering the student housing boom in the general area. On the other hand, developers just a block to the south had a similarly zoned lot almost three times the size and instead opted for a disappointing one-story commercial-only building. So who knows what anyone would build here or what they'd pay.

Vacant lot was like a football field

The 400 block of N. 40th St. in University City has experienced a dramatic change in the last several years. As recently as 2009, the western side of the block was dominated by a collection of vacant lots, until a couple of apartments buildings went up a couple of years ago. Still, a huge vacant lot loomed immediately to the north. That lot is now in the process of filling in on both 40th and Wiota Streets. 

Back in 2009

When we visited this block a few days ago, there was new construction happening all the way up the northern half of the block, until the corner parcel, where there stands a church. A couple of years ago, the huge lot we mentioned above was subdivided into seven lots with four fronting 40th Street and three fronting Wiota Street. Currently, three of the four lots on 40th St. are under construction and two of the Wiota lots are getting built. It will be quadplexes on 40th St. and triplexes on Wiota. At first we thought that the vacant middle parcels might be parking access, but it seems that's not the case.

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