The footprint of the University of Pennsylvania has slowly but surely expanded over the decades, pushing out to a western boundary of 40th Street in the late 1960s and a bit more recently, to a hazy northern border at Chestnut Street. Though the formal campus of the university probably isn’t going to do much more growing, we’ve seen countless projects crop up in the neighborhoods surrounding the school over the last several years, mostly of the student housing variety. Penn might not be swinging the hammer at 40th & Baring, for example, but all the construction we’ve seen in that area is due to the university, with an assist due to Drexel.
When Graphic Arts Inc. moved their business from their historic home at 4100 Chestnut St. back in 2011 and sold their building to Campus Apartments, we simply assumed that whatever happened to this property would target a student population. Not a bad assumption, considering all the stuff we just said and recognizing that Campus Apartments is one of the biggest student housing landlords in town. A couple years later, we felt vindicated, as we’d heard about a plan to build a couple of high rise apartment buildings on the western section of the property. But that never materialized.
Instead, the building slowly got fixed up, as the owners advertised 35K sqft of space available for lease. It seems it was a blessing that it took so long to fill the building, as we told you last summer that Amazon would be taking over the entire property. And we were very confident in our scoop, as it was verified by the guys working at the pizza shop across the street. At the time, we didn’t know what Amazon was planning to do with the building, but a recent story from West Philly Local fills in that blank. According to the story, this will be a Prime Now fulfillment warehouse. Prime Now, for those like us that didn’t know until five minutes ago, is a service that provides delivery for certain household items and grocery items within two hours of order placement. Prime Now is also in the restaurant delivery business (why not), and will compete with Caviar, Grubhub, etc.
Intuitively, we wouldn’t have ever expected this kind of operation at this address, right at the edge of Penn’s campus. But when we think more about the location, we start to understand the thinking. From 41st & Chestnut, delivery drivers will have a very easy time getting stuff to people in West Philly, and a mostly easy time getting to addresses in greater Center City. With decent highway access, we could even see deliveries push up to the northwestern parts of town and deep into South Philly.
Prime Now sounds great, and it will surely make life easier for people in Philadelphia. With Amazon opening a large warehouse in West Philly, our thoughts naturally move toward whether Amazon could soon open a much larger operation nearby in the form of HQ2. Oddsmakers seem to think that the DC area will win the prize, but from where we sit, we’re in the running until we’re out of the running. And at least according to Amazon, we’re still in the running. And if we don’t end up winning the HQ2 contest, it’s not the end of the world. At least you’ll have the consolation prize of getting toilet paper delivered right to your door within two hours of ordering it. Ah, what a time to be alive.