Church Demoed at 52nd & Chester, Apartment Building Will Soon Rise

The Word Tabernacle Baptist Church worshipped in a beautiful building at 5200 Chester Ave. for many years. This building was constructed in 1910 for First United Presbyterian, and was designed by Joseph Huston. The church resembled countless other religious structures built at the beginning of the 20th century, which is to say it was clad in stone and included numerous architectural details across its facades. Also like so many other churches of the era, the building was in poor condition thanks to years of deferred and incredibly expensive maintenance. This building had some significant roof damage and missing/boarded up windows when we visited in 2013, but the congregation was still using the building despite its condition.

In the past

Back in 2013, we speculated that it would only be a matter of time before building maintenance would prove too onerous for the church, and guessed that it would eventually go up for sale. By the time 2018 rolled around, there was a gaping hole in the roof of the church and it was clear the building was unusable, barring a massive renovation. At that time, however, developers had purchased the property, and we predicted that renovation was exceedingly unlikely, with demolition and new construction a much more plausible outcome. Last year, as expected, the church did indeed meet the wrecking ball, joining countless other churches that have met the same fate in recent years. The site is currently sitting vacant.

Current view

Soon enough though, a new building will rise here. The property is currently zoned for single-family use, but this represents a relatively recent remapping effort, as it was zoned for multi-family until not too long ago. Before the zoning changed, the developers pulled a permit for a new apartment building which will rise four stories and include 45 apartments. This building, designed by Ambit, will feature a red brick facade and will be shaped like a capital ‘I.’ The entry courtyard on the 52nd Street side of the building will be a nice touch, and will allow for some nice trees both on and off the street.

Rendering from 52nd & Chester
Look at the courtyard
Straight-on rendering

This project will rise just a couple blocks away from another project we recently covered on the 4900 block of Chester Avenue. Perhaps more significant is the proximity to Evergreen Terrace, the ongoing 65-unit project on Springfield Avenue which is also on this side of the Regional Rail tracks that present a real barrier in the neighborhood. A couple of sizable developments in this part of Kingsessing would seem to indicate the potential for more such market rate projects, either targeting students or young professionals looking for more distant and therefore slightly more affordable options in this part of town. Figure there’s more to come in Kingsessing, with room for both larger and smaller projects in the mix.