Anyone who is as obsessed with development news as we are was thrilled when we heard recently that the old West Philadelphia High School is finally being redeveloped after roughly five years of vacancy. The school moved into a new facility at 49th & Chestnut in September 2011. The original building is a hulking structure which occupies a whole city block at 47th and Walnut. It was finished in 1912 and was notable back then because it was the only secondary school in Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill.
Since its closing, we've been watching, and the neighborhood has been meeting with the developer, Heights Advisors, to come up with a final plan which was suitable to all parties (though not all are happy with what is set to happen here). At one point, the developers thought they may be able to rent out half of the building to a charter school. But that plan seems to have fallen through as they are now seeking to redevelop the entire building as apartments, 298 of them to be exact. It will also include zero parking spots since the developer figures most residents will be biking, walking, or taking advantage of the Market-Frankford Line, at the 46th Street Station. That said, it looks like from both the permit, and the current demolition happening at the site, that the developer is only taking on half of the building at a time. This isn't surprising the building contains over 442K sqft of space and is a massive undertaking for this section of the city. We walked out during the snow storm and snapped some pictures of some of the current activity at the property.
As we rounded the corner to get some other shots of the building, we noticed a large addition, the Floyd Logan Gymnasium, on the southern portion of the property. We're assuming this was a mid-century add-on. While the rest of the building seems like a fairly straightforward residential conversion from former classrooms, we wondered how the developer would be handling this huge side structure.
After doing a little permitting research, we found the permit for the property includes the details that the former gym is planned to be kept as a gym, and a fitness center will also be included in the structure. What we don't know is whether the gym will be open to the general public. Since the building used to be a public building (a public school, no less), we think it would be great if this amenity was open to local non-profits or others who may want to use it for community development purposes.
Besides that, we're really curious if the developers have any eventual plans for the huge sidewalks and open spaces surrounding the building. Perhaps some green space or community gardens would be in order. But until we see any plans, we'll continue to wonder what that would look like. The bottom line is that we're really excited to see this building being brought back to life. In combination with the development happening at 46th & Sansom and the Public Safety Services Campus, this area of West Philadelphia is experiencing a wave of development, the likes of which it hasn't seen in a hundred years.