The W.S. Peirce School, located at 2400 Christian St., was built in 1928-29 and designed by Irwin T. Catharine in the Late Gothic Revival-style. Catharine, who wasn't the namesake for Catharine Street despite the spelling of his name, was the chief architect for Philadelphia public schools in the 1920s and 30s and designed dozens of schools now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, like Bok, Nebinger, Masterman, and Overbrook. The Peirce School is among those designed by Catharine listed on the National Register, yet for some reason it never made it onto the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
It's about flippin' time. We wondered about this property five and a half years ago, hoping the SDP would sell the property and considering possible future uses. Those possibilities still apply today.
The most obvious reuse would be as a charter school, in the same way that Independence Charter School took over the old Durham School on Lombard Street. It's quite possible that a charter school operator could offer the most money for the property, but that outcome would have major political consequences in a neighborhood where parent groups have worked for years to improve the two public schools in the neighborhood. Still, we can't rule it out.
Market rate residential conversion would also make sense, with the Wharton Lofts or the Mural Lofts projects providing recent templates. There have also been examples of converting former schools into affordable housing, and that possibility shouldn't be dismissed in an area with diminishing economic diversity. Perhaps the least desirable (and we'd posit least likely) scenario would be the demolition of the building and the construction of a bunch of new homes on the 35K sqft property. Hilariously, when we pondered new homes here back in 2011, we suggested a $600K price point which today would look more appropriate south of Washington Avenue. It just goes to show how quickly the market has moved in the last few years.
So what will happen here? We'd bet on some kind of residential conversion, but considering that we don't even know the asking price for the property it's almost impossible to predict the future. For now, neighbors are peeved that they've lost a bunch of parking spots but the frustration is surely tempered by excitement that something will finally happen with this long vacant property.
Will the buyer propose something that's met with acceptance from the community? Or will an army of NIMBYs come out in opposition? Stay tuned, folks.