West Philly High to Become Market Rate Apartments?

It appears we could be seeing redevelopment at the old West Philadelphia High School very soon.

The school

A bid from New York-based Strong Place Partners (SPP) to purchase and renovate the building at 4700 Walnut St. into a mixed-use development featuring studio apartments and lofts aimed at graduate and junior faculty at nearby universities will have to be voted on by its School Reform Commission (SRC) before any further action can occur.

The school district is working towards including the item on its December 20 Action Committee meeting, according to spokesperson Dierdre Darragh.

According to the West Philly Local, SPP president Andrew Bank, a native of the Philadelphia suburbs whose grandmother attended the school, presented a plan that seeks to restore as much of the building’s character and infrastructure as possible, including one of the school’s theaters and its gym. The tentative design calls for 300 apartments, some as large as 1600 sqft, and 15K sqft of ground-floor retail, according to the article. It reported 400 sqft apartments could begin at $800 a month and could be available as soon as 2016. It also called for major improvements to the streetscape and a scaling back of the extra-wide sidewalks. The now vacant lot across the street on the southwest corner of 48th and Walnut where the Windmere Apartments burned down in 2011 could potentially be incorporated in the project.

From 48th St.

The site was listed for sale this February for $6.5M. With the visions of an Apple Lofts developments fading in the rearview mirror, and no word on the proposed Croydon development at 49th & Locust, these plans mark the latest in a line of recent attempts at large-scale West Philadelphia development that’s seen decidedly mixed results.

It’s interesting to see a developer identify the type of individuals they are marketing their living spaces to, as it provides a glimpse of how a neighborhood can be planned. With hundreds of new middle-class to affluent residents coming to an area that hasn’t experienced the same level of gentrification as the neighborhoods surrounding Baltimore Avenue, it will be fascinating to see what this does to the dynamic of the area.

As renderings and more details are released we will share them with you.

–Lou Mancinelli