The last decade or so has seen a huge burst of development in the neighborhoods west of the Schuylkill near Drexel, Penn, and University of the Sciences. These areas have seen countless new projects sprout up, permanently changing the face of many blocks in the rings around these educational institutions. Mantua, Walnut Hill, Spruce Hill, Squirrel Hill, Cedar Park, and West Powelton have all experienced major changes, and it appears that development is continuing to spread outward as the years go by.

We’ve certainly seen some projects in Kingsessing in Southwest Philly, with most of them coming on the blocks closer to Baltimore Avenue. The new CDR agenda was released this week, however, with a Kingsessing proposal for a property that’s pretty much as far as you can get from Baltimore Avenue. 1631 S. 52nd St. sits on the other side of Woodland Avenue, on a block that dead-ends with the below-grade Regional Rail tracks. The property has been used for the storage of cars and trucks for decades, and the one-acre site was listed for sale last year for $1.2M. The site is zoned for industrial use, and its surrounding environment is a Popeye’s, a church that’s in an old industrial building, and the aforementioned rail line.

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For Sale sign on the property
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Popeyes at the corner
Church in a warehouse next door

Developers have the property under agreement, and they are planning a project that calls for two apartment buildings. Building A will have 40 units, while Building B will include 64 units, and then there will be another 46 parking spots. Some of those spots will be open to the sky in the space between the buildings, but most of the spots will sit on the first floor of the larger building. This site plan should give you a sense of what we mean:

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Project site plan

And here are renderings from KCA Design Associates, to give you an idea of what the buildings will look like.

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Aerial rendering
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Project rendering
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Another view

As we said, this property is zoned for industrial use, so it will not only need to come to CDR, but it will also need a variance from the ZBA. This being the case, we suspect the project you see pictured above will undergo some real changes before it goes forward. Remember, we told you about a proposed building at 48th & Chester that called for some density with a decent amount of parking. Even with the developer offering a number of affordable units, the District Councilperson came out in opposition to the project due to community complaints. And that was for a site where the developers had a by-right path to build a bunch of duplexes with no parking! Here, there’s no path to build anything residential by right, so we can imagine a scenario where some serious horse trading will be necessary and even so, there might not be any path to get community/political support.

That doesn’t mean that the ZBA won’t approve the project, though. There’s still certainly a world in which the ZBA signs off on the development and we see something resembling this project rising near 52nd & Woodland in the next couple years. If that happens, it could represent a toehold for new construction deeper into the neighborhood than we’ve seen, and that could result in other developers taking a shot in this section of Southwest Philly. With fewer and fewer development opportunities in more obvious locations, it certainly seems like a possibility.