Spruce Hill has some of the most beautiful architecture in the city, with a mix of Victorian homes, Gothic apartment buildings, and more decorative columns than you can shake a stick at. At the intersection of 46th & Spruce, we see examples of some of the types of buildings that make this neighborhood so impressive.
The southeast corner of the intersection though, is home to one of the least exciting buildings in the neighborhood. For many years, 4536 Spruce St. was home to a Transition to Independent Living facility, but a fire hit the building in 2011 and it has been sitting vacant ever since. Back in 2015, Mission First Housing Group had a plan to redevelop the property and build 24 units of affordable-housing at this address, but the community was pushing back. To be clear, the neighbor objections supposedly had to do with building size, massing, and setbacks, and wasn’t due to the fact that it was proposed as affordable housing.
By the summer of 2015, we learned that the affordable housing project wasn’t happening after all. This was due to a combination of Mission First lacking the necessary funds for the project and a neighbor stating that they would appeal any such project approved by the ZBA. Despite the fact that Mission First was pretty far down the road negotiating with the local community group, they decided they would offer the property up for sale.
High Top Development filled the void, buying the property for $940K at the end of 2015. Over the following year, they took the property through the zoning process and got approval last summer for a four-story building with three retail spaces and 24 apartments on the upper floors. We’re not sure how this differed from the Mission First proposal, but they were somehow able to get enough neighbor support to get approval from the ZBA. On the developer’s website, they have a couple of renderings, with design work from PZS Architects.
Considered alongside the other buildings nearby, this place can only pale in comparison. On the other hand, we’ve seen, during this development cycle, some truly terrible architecture appear all over West Philly. And seen in that context, this new building will look amazing. Honestly, we’re just happy that, for a change, a new building in West Philadelphia will be replacing an inferior building, and not some architectural treasure.