Oddly Shaped West Philly Lot Could Be Developed

There’s a vacant lot at 318 N. 42nd St. where developers are looking to build something new. Ho hum, more student housing for this block, which saw three new homes go up a few years ago and is a stone’s throw away from dozens of relatively fresh projects. So why do we bother bringing this little property to your attention?

The Property
Looking up 42nd Street

A peek at the zoning application is the first indication that there’s something unusual afoot. The application calls for two buildings- a single family home and a rear building with 6 apartments and 6 parking spots. Looking at the parcel from the street, this doesn’t seem so possible. Looking at it from above, all is explained.

Look at the shape of this lot

We don’t see this very often. This property has a very unusual shape, with an extra wide but mostly standard space for building on 42nd Street, and a gigantic triangular stretch in the rear. According to historical maps, this flag lot has existed since at least 1895, created by the irregularly shaped parcel in the rear, which was the eastern edge of the campus for the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. Today, of course, its the edge of the Vidas Athletic Complex, a collection of sports fields used by Drexel. Despite this significant change, the property boundaries remain as they have for all these years, and here we are with this very strange parcel.

We don’t see why it would be an issue to build two buildings here, as the large rear yard would otherwise (continue to) sit as a giant private green space. If the ZBA denies the application, perhaps Drexel would have an interest in purchasing a subdivided chunk of this parcel to maintain as public space next to the parking lot for their fields. But unless the community comes out aggressively against the subdivision, we’d say redevelopment seems like the most likely outcome.