It’s no exaggeration to say that the boundaries of student housing development have exploded outward in the last decade in West Philadelphia, pushing farther north, south, and west than we ever could have predicted. In terms of northern projects, we’ve seen development all over Haverford Avenue, with the occasional proposal pushing to Mount Vernon Street. If Mount Vernon seems like it’s a little far away from Penn and Drexel, how about the corner of 41st & Brown?
The same party owned a number of properties at this intersection, but sadly did a remarkably bad job maintaining them. Though the buildings were in poor condition and their location wasn’t exactly prime, at least they offered some pretty great bones that seemed to offer great redevelopment potential. In all, eight buildings were put up for sale last year, selling for a combined $556K.
Visiting these properties today, there’s some serious change in the air. The buildings on the west side of the street, 800-806 N. 41st St., have been getting renovated over the last several months into 6-unit apartment buildings. Though the properties are zoned for multi-family use, the developers still needed variances for this density, but given that the variances allowed them to maintain the handsome structures, we can’t see why anyone would have opposed the idea.
Things are a little different across the street, where 805-811 N. 41st St. are all in different stages of demolition. Like the buildings across the street, these had wonderful bones, but perhaps they were too far gone to renovate, or maybe they didn’t lay out to easily convert into apartments. Unlike the aforementioned rehabs, these properties are zoned for single-family use, so the burden to receive a variance for multi-family projects will likely be much higher than the conversion across the street. Still, we have to think that the owners will look to get a variance because we don’t see how new construction single family homes make any financial sense at this location.
Though most of the construction we cover in West Philadelphia targets students, we wonder whether these units will ultimately prove to be too far from campus to attract a student population. In fact, we aren’t sure that any market rate tenants will look to lease these apartments, so perhaps the plan is to target Section 8 tenants or other affordable housing residents. Then again, several years ago we didn’t think that 40th & Baring made sense as a student housing hub and we were way off base with that thought, so maybe students will indeed come up to 41st & Brown after all.