We were driving through Mantua the other day, looking into some recent projects we’d heard about, when some construction on the 3600 block of Olive Street caught our eye. This was a project we hadn’t heard about previously, but the size of the two buildings currently under construction on the block struck us as we were traveling down 37th Street. Of course, we meandered down the block to investigate.

View from the west

The properties in question are 3606 and 3608 Olive St., which you can see are well on their way with two new buildings. There were historically a pair of twin homes on these two lots, with one getting demoed prior to 1996 and the other coming down within the last decade. Also interesting is that the grade on this block is such that most of the homes require many steps to reach the front door. This was, of course the case with the homes that stood here previously.

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In the past
Current view
Even closer

Two quadplexes are currently under construction here, a project that required variances for density, open area, and parking. From a design perspective, the developers did something very interesting in using the grade on the block to their advantage in terms of height. By creating an entry level at the grade of the sidewalk, they are able to build a full four stories but only rise one story over the neighboring two-story homes. It’s still a pretty obvious height difference, both from a distance and from up close.

Given the location of this project, we would posit that this one is different from much of the development we’ve seen in Mantua. Typically, construction has been happening on the southern side of the neighborhood, with units targeting students at Drexel and Penn. These buildings stand half a mile from the border of Drexel as the crow flies, and at a certain point we don’t believe that college students or grad students will be willing to make the long shlep to campus.

Instead, we think that these units will be targeting non-students who are looking for new construction apartments that are a little off the beaten track and therefore priced at a discount. But these sorts of projects don’t usually crop up in a vacuum – we imagine we’ll see more like it in the years to come, as developers increasingly look toward the plentiful vacant land in Mantua as opportunities dry up in other areas. If that’s the case, it won’t be long til these units aren’t discounted much, if at all.