We were traveling around West Philadelphia the other day and stumbled upon a property that felt as if it had looked quite different not so long ago. Looking at the Google Maps Time Machine, we confirmed our suspicion that indeed, 525 N. 41st St. has changed considerably of late. For decades, there was a large warehouse building on this site, labeled as “laundry” on historic maps. More recently, we imagine it was associated with a nearby church, with the cross on the facade providing a not so subtle hint.

Screen Shot 2019-07-26 At 12.40.08 PM
In the past

Like we said though, this property looks very different today, as the old warehouse has been demolished. In its place, look for… wait for it… more student housing!

Current view
View from 41st & Haverford

The former owner of this building bought it for $25K in 1988 and sold it for $1.1M last year. Figuring in realtor fees and transfer taxes, that’s a roughly 40x return on investment – not too shabby in 30 years. The listing for the property adorably points out the fact that there was a small apartment in the warehouse building and suggests that an interested developer could live on the property while renovating it. This ignores the obvious point that anyone paying serious dough for this property would be doing so with an eye toward demolition and new construction.

As we said, that’s what’s happening here. The old building is already gone, and a new three-story, 30-unit apartment building will soon rise in its place. We don’t know what the building will look like, but given the standard student housing architecture in this part of town, we are hesitant to get our hopes up. On the other hand, PZS Architects did the design work and they’ve got a pretty strong track record, including the Good Food Flats project around the corner. So we’ll hope for the best as this project gets out of the ground, keeping in mind that student renters are almost exclusively concerned with interiors and don’t seem to care very much about exteriors. And as always with these sorts of projects, we’ll feel a renewed sense of bitterness over just how good the kids have it these days when compared to our accommodations from back in the day.