Zoning on Some West Philly Blocks Promoting Greater Density

A few weeks ago, after checking out the newest iteration of The Hub on Chestnut Street in University City, we spotted a peculiar demolition at 4042 Chestnut St., about half a block away. The building that was here previously didn't appear to be blighted or vacant and was actually pretty satisfying from an architectural standpoint. So why, then, would its owner tear it down?

This is what the demolished building looked like, courtesy of Google

As you can see from the picture taken in 2014, the building was up for sale last year. It was finally sold for a sizable price of $1M back in June of this year. We couldn't tell you what the condition of the building was at that time, but we would posit that the condition of the building was irrelevant because the developers bought it with the intent to demolish. This parcel, like many of the surrounding blocks, is zoned CMX-4, only one level below the city's maximum mixed-use density. As a result, the owner can and will build a five story building with 25 apartments and some parking on the basement level. We reached out to the developers, University Realty, but they were unable to provide us with a drawing of the building. We're really curious as to what it will look like, and are not too psyched about the prospect of a new curb-cut on Chestnut Street.

Site is being prepared for a 5 story building

This project is similar to another 5 story building happening nearby at 44th & Ludlow that we featured some months ago. At that time, the building was only about half of its planned height. Now, the structure is completely built out and waiting for its internal and external finishes. And let us tell you something, it looks massive.

A hint of siding going on the right side of the building

As we said in the past, this building is pretty unique because it's surrounded by two-story houses (and a few vacant lots) built probably a hundred years ago, so it dwarfs its neighbors. In fact, because the building's foundation looks like an entire floor in and of itself, it actually looks to be 6 floors tall. Like the ongoing project on Chestnut Street it was built by-right because the parcel and the surrounding blocks are zoned CMX-4.

From another vantage point

Months ago, we wondered whether we'd see other developers go for taller by-right construction in this area. We'd have predicted that this kind of thing would have happened on a vacant lot or a parking lot, not a seemingly intact building on Chestnut Street. But what's done is done. We just hope that what's coming to Chestnut Street is something of equal aesthetic value to what was there previously. You'll forgive us if we're not overly optimistic.