We’ve provided a staggering amount of coverage of student housing’s northern push in West Philadelphia, telling you about countless new projects extending to Haverford Avenue and beyond. With some of the prospects drying up to the north, it seems developers have taken a new shine to opportunities to the west and southwest, as we’ve seen a few different projects under construction past 50th Street and south of Baltimore Avenue. We discovered something new and different the other day when scanning the ZBA calendar, a student housing project across the Septa tracks that separate the blocks immediately south of Baltimore Avenue from the rest of Southwest Philadelphia. Here, see what we mean by looking at this map:
These tracks, which serve the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line, are a natural barrier in the neighborhood, creating overpasses and underpasses in this largely residential area. People generally aren’t so excited to cross the tracks anywhere, so it makes sense that we haven’t seen too much development on the other side. But developers are continually seeking new opportunities, and 1047 S. 51st St., a vacant lot on a residential block right near the tracks, is proving too tempting to pass up.
This 3,000+ sqft lot could accommodate an 8-unit building by right, but the owners are looking to build a 12-unit building instead, with 4 bike parking spots. It doesn’t say on the zoning notice that the building will target students, but the density and the location would seem to suggest as much. Of course, the ZBA still needs to give its blessing to the project, and we can’t be sure they will, given the lack of hardship in this situation. Also, it goes without saying that this project, if it gets built, won’t fit in at all with the other two-story buildings on the block. It might look less out of place around the corner, on Springfield Avenue, which has only three-story buildings.
Then again, given the recent history of student housing architecture in West and Southwest Philadelphia, a contemporary new building would probably stick out just as much on Springfield Avenue, if not more. We’ll keep any eye out to see whether this thing ends up getting built as currently proposed, and whether it might inspire other developers to consider construction on this side of the tracks.