Changes at Temple and Drexel over the last couple decades have had a dramatic impact on their surrounding neighborhoods. Both schools have seen enrollment rise and at Temple, the number of commuting students has dropped considerably. As such, we’ve seen a ton of student housing construction occur on and around both campuses, transforming swaths of North Philadelphia and Mantua, respectively. At Penn, meanwhile, we’re fairly certain that the student body is roughly the same size as it was twenty years ago, with about 25,000 total students, with a bit less than half of that population being undergrads. And yet Penn’s campus and the nearby neighborhood have also seen a huge jump in new construction, ranging from dorms built by the university to apartment buildings large and small from private developers. It stands to reason then, that these units, which seem like they would be targeting students, are instead looking to appeal to a broader population that’s simply looking to live close to Penn.
Take, for example, the new 30-story building currently under construction on the 3700 block of Chestnut Street, right in between the St. Agatha-St. James Church and the Tabernacle United Church. This address, 3720 Chestnut St., was previously the site of the Newman Center student ministry, which was located in a simple low rise building. The Newman Center has since moved to space in an old school building, connected to the adjacent St. Agatha-St. James Church.
Visiting the site the other day, we saw that the old building is now gone and a large hole has appeared in its place. That hole will eventually house 40 underground parking spots, and above the hole we’ll soon see a sizable apartment building, with 420 apartments and a couple of retail spaces on Chestnut Street. Here are some renderings of the project, with design work done by SITIO Architecture + Urbanism. As usual, we can thank a CDR packet for these clutch drawings.
We should mention that this building is rising 100% by right, due to the permissive CMX-4 zoning of the property. Unlike so many other West Philly apartment buildings, this project is fortunately replacing a rather blah building which nobody would have argued to preserve. With several other parcels on surrounding blocks possessing similarly flexible zoning, we don’t know that we’ll be able to say the same for the next project that comes down the pike in this neck of the woods. And make no mistake, more projects are surely coming. Whether it’s students, young professionals at University City Science Center, or anybody else, the pace of construction in this part of town is an indication that people want to live in West Philadelphia more than ever. Expect developers to give the people what they want.