The corner of 40th & Walnut is officially the northwest edge of Penn’s campus, but the reach of the university extends far beyond that intersection. Off-campus student housing has extended west of 40th Street for a long time, but it’s only really been in the last decade or so that student housing has pushed north of Penn. The Hub buildings at 40th & Chestnut are rather obvious examples, but if you continue several blocks further north, the 40th & Baring intersection is another hub, if you will, of student housing development. In order to get from 40th & Walnut to 40th & Baring, you’ll probably pass through the 40th & Market intersection.
The blocks immediately next to Penn are, as you might expect, significantly targeted toward students, with a collection of student housing buildings and businesses that cater to college budgets and appetites. While the housing goes several blocks to the north, the student-targeted businesses pretty much stop at Market Street. But that could soon change. Toward the end of last year, we told you that developers had purchased a junky building at 4000 Market St., and had plans to tear it down and replace it with a 7-story mixed-use building. The ZBA approved that project, and now it looks like demolition is neigh.
It seems these developers are quite pleased with this project, and are looking to double down on 40th & Market before even starting construction on the southeast corner. At the end of last year, the same developer bought 4001 Market St., paying a little over $1.5M for the property. Looking at the zoning calendar, it appears they have a plan to tear down the existing building and replace it with a ten story building with retail on the first floor and 32 apartments on the upper floors. Surely, this building, like its cousin to the south, will target a student population both in terms of the apartments and the business on the ground floor.
Assuming this project gets approved, it will create a second anchor at 40th & Market for the Penn student population. As such, we believe it’s only a matter of time before other developers look to get in on the act, likely transforming the Market Street corridor in the years to come. On the one hand, Market Street has a ton of untapped potential and given its proximity to Penn and public transit, and the underlying zoning on the street, its low-rise status is a hilarious underuse of valuable real estate. On the other hand, this process will surely displace long term businesses and impact area residents that rely on local services. There’s surely some way to integrate old and new as this transition occurs, but we don’t know what that would look like, logistically. Anyone have any ideas, before it’s too late?