Central City Toyota Getting a Makeover

Mr. Fox

More than a hundred years is a long time for a family to be in business. But at 49th and Chestnut Sts.Paul Brothers Auto Body, founded in 1905, has repaired cars and more since they moved into a former bicycle and radiator repair shop in 1913. And now, the Central City Toyota that abuts the building and is also owned by the Paul family is undergoing a renovation that will see about three-quarters of the structure demolished and rebuilt.

Central City Toyota

Renovations will mean a completely new showroom (the old one will be razed), a modernization and interior renovation of the service area, which is behind the showroom and backs up to Sansom St., as well as a new parking lot (at the intersection of 48th and Chestnut Sts.) with a new water-retention basin built underneath, according to owner Brad Paul.

Demo work ongoing

The Paul’s have owned the dealership, which is housed in 100 year-old former horse barn, since 1968. Demolition and rebuilding of the showroom will only knock-down about 40 feet of the building, heading back from Chestnut St., Paul said. The exterior of the service area will remain. Penn Valley Contractors, out of Morrisville, are doing the work on this LEED certified project. Work began about three weeks ago and could be done as early as August of next year, but is more likely to conclude towards the end of 2012. The body shop, dealership, and parking lot cover the entire block.

A look at the demo from 48th St.

The intersection is a busy one in West Philly. According to Paul, they get more traffic at this location than at Ardmore Toyota, another dealership owned by the family. Plus the site is just minutes away from massive hotel development already underway in University City, as well as another big potential project at 41st and Chestnut Sts. and a few blocks away from a new CHOP facility at 48th and Market.

The project could serve to spark improvement for the neighborhood, with the old dealership being replaced. “That’s a transitional area of the city,” said Russell Moritz, a member of the Walnut Hill Community Association who works on zoning issues. “It was a blighted corner for a very long time.

Both Moritz and the councilwoman’s office said that the Paul family and the dealership have embraced the community and maintain a good relationship with its residents. If such is the case, here’s to a few more decades of a sustainable business that contributes to the community.

--Lou Mancinelli