Construction at 40th & Pine After Years of Fights and Delays

Michael’s Custom Cuts is a little barber shop/hair salon in West Philly where we’ve been getting our haircuts for longer than we can remember. And many people can say the same thing, as we’re pretty sure this business has been operating out of a space near the corner of 40th & Spruce since at least the 1940s. A little less than a hundred years before Michael’s opened its doors, in 1856, Samuel Sloan designed an Italianate mansion at the southwest corner of 40th & Pine. And it was incredibly handsome.

View of the building in the 1960s

By the time the photo above was taken, the building had already undergone some cosmetic changes and was being used as a nursing home. Some time shortly after, the owners further altered the building, severely compromising its original beauty. Still, the building was nominated to the local historic register in the 1970s. It continued to function as a nursing home until 2003, when it was closed because of inhumane conditions. Given the location, it should come as no surprise that Penn quickly swooped in to buy the property.

View from a couple years ago

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story after this point. In short, Penn and Equinox Management & Construction, their development partners, planned to demolish the building and replace it with an 11-story hotel, but the community pushed back. Penn then proposed a compromise project that would have incorporated the existing building and only gone up five stories, but the community rejected that concept as well. Finally, in 2014, the Historical Commission granted permission to tear down the building, and the next year, it met the wrecking ball.

For over two years, the site sat dormant, with construction finally picking up at the end of last year. The current plan calls for a five-story building called the Azalea, which will have 119 apartments. The building will target graduate and professional students, and will include amenities like a fitness center and a rooftop deck with a green roof. We’d contend the best amenity for this project is its location, a stone’s throw from campus and just a block away from the 40th Street trolley portal.

Current view
Looking into the hole
Looking west on the block
Project rendering

And of course, for anyone that moves here that’s looking for a solid and reasonably priced haircut, we can recommend a spot just around the corner.