Student Housing Replacing Stubby Homes on 35th Street

When we think about West Philadelphia, wonderful architecture is one of the first things that comes to mind. With a mix of Victorian homes with colorfully painted bays and a range of aesthetically pleasing apartment buildings, we can geek out in numerous West Philly neighborhoods for hours on end. As we’ve detailed over the years, an explosion in student housing development over the last handful of years has resulted in the demolition of some terrific buildings on this side of the Schuylkill, and pretty much every time we hear about a new project in West Philly, we worry about what it will cost in that regard.

Occasionally, we see new construction in these parts that results in the demolition of a building that’s not so special. Granted, it’s the exception, not the rule, but it’s generally preferable to the alternative. And it’s certainly the case for a few projects at various stages on the 400 block of N. 35th Street.

In the past

At some point, we believe around 1960, five homes were built at 433-441 N. 35th St., on a lot that was previously used for a single building. These homes are only one-story high and resemble homes we’ve seen in other parts of town, notably Francisville, that were built as subsidized affordable units for sale. We can’t tell you for sure though, it’s also possible that a private developer thought that these homes made the most sense for this location back then. What we can tell you is that these homes are utterly unremarkable from an architectural standpoint, so it’s with little sadness that we speculate that they’ll all be gone within the next few years. Thinking about it, they all might be gone before the end of the year.

Current view at the corner
Just to the south

At the corner of 35th & Spring Garden, developers have already torn down a home and are currently building a six-unit building. 433 N. 35th St. was torn down a couple years ago and there’s already a quadplex that’s been completed in its place. And you might be able to see, there are demolition notices posted to 437 and 439 N. 35th St., where two more quadplexes will soon rise. As for 435 N. 35th St., we see a zoning permit filing for demolition from back in 2017 and nothing since, so it’s possible this home will stick around for awhile or someone might buy it and tear it down in the next few months.

Handsome church across the street

While we’re here, we might as well draw your attention to the Kingdom Worship Center Church, right across the street. This church dates back over a hundred years and has been listed for sale and for rent over the last number of years. It’s not listed on the local historic register, so it could be bought and torn down by a developer, but we don’t think that’s terribly likely. Despite the strong location and the fact that it sits on a sizable lot, it’s only zoned for single family use and any developer looking to tear it down in favor of student housing would need a variance from the ZBA. We don’t imagine such a variance would be so easy to procure, so we believe this building will be around for the long haul. It’s a rare (and surely accidental) situation in which the zoning for a property will greatly enhance its chances for historic preservation.