Here’s a fun history lesson for you – did you know that CHOP wasn’t always located in West Philly? The hospital was founded in 1855 and for a few years it operated out of a small building near Broad & Pine. From 1866-1916, the hospital expanded to a new location on the east side of 22nd Street, just north of Locust. Then, starting in 1916, the hospital operated out of a much larger facility at 18th & Bainbridge, finally moving across the river in 1974. Most of the old hospital’s buildings at 18th & Bainbridge were demolished soon after the hospital moved away, with a bloc of homes constructed around a surface parking lot by 1980. But the hospital also had a pair of buildings to the east on a small block bounded by 17th, Bainbridge, Colorado, and Fitzwater Streets which were never demolished.

From what we can tell, these buildings sat vacant for a number of years before the Regis Group acquired them in the mid-1990s and converted them into apartment buildings called Artist Village. Maybe some artists even lived here back then! Like some other projects from this developer, Artist Village was constructed as an affordable housing project and has remained as such over the last 25 years even as the surrounding neighborhood has dramatically gentrified. But with that gentrification, the use of this 30K sqft lot for a mere 36 units with about a dozen parking spaces feels like a dramatic underuse for a property with a highly desirable address.

View at 17th & Fitzwater

Incidentally, back in 2013, we told you about plans to subdivide the property and build four high end homes on the southern side of 700 S. 17th St., but that project never moved forward. We don’t know why that fell through, as it seemed like a pretty reasonable plan at the time. We do know that we’ve thought, over the following years, that another project would eventually come around for this property in light of its location, its size, and the fact that it’s zoned for multi-family use. Without a zoning variance, this property could accommodate dozens of additional units – and now the owners appear to be pursuing that in earnest.

Parking lot between the buildings
South building
North building

Just yesterday, the developers pulled a zoning permit to build some new stuff here, but what form it will take isn’t quite clear at this time. The zoning permit indicates that the unit count at the property will increase from 36 to 68 in a by-right development. The permit also shows that the project will take advantage of the moderate income bonus, but that bonus will only provide additional height and not additional density. This gives us a sense that the new units will arrive in the form of both apartments for rent and townhomes for sale, surely filling the vacant land on the south side of the property and perhaps also filling some of the space between the two existing buildings.

We confess that we don’t know exactly how this thing will come together, but will keep our ears open and will share more details as they become available. No matter how the project is arranged in the end, the increased density is certainly a step in the right direction for this property. But the Artist Village name doesn’t seem to fit the present or the future. Perhaps they could rename the property to evoke its history! How about the “Old Hospital Apartments”? “Former CHOP Towers”? Maybe “A Prestigious Children’s Hospital Was Once Located Here and Only a Couple Buildings Survived and Now They’re Apartments Plus There’s Some Newer Buildings Here Too Residential Community”? Ah, that one is probably a little too wordy.