St. Petri’s Conversion to Bring Apartments to Belmont Neighborhood

There is wonderful architecture throughout our lovely city, and West Philly offers some of the best. With its famous front porches, grand Victorian homes, and grand institutional buildings, this area of the city certainly gives you a little bit of it all. St. Petri Evangelical German Lutheran Church at 838 ½ N. 42nd St. in Belmont is yet another example of the treasures that can be found west of the Schuylkill. Originally built all the way back in 1872, St. Pete’s has undergone multiple additions and was designated as historic in 2013, so for a change this isn’t a story about an upcoming demolition. Developers are instead looking to convert this church to residential use, and thanks to their submission for review to the Historical Commission, we can share these plans with some level of detail.

Original one-story chapel from 1872
Second phase added in 1895
Aerial view showing final additions
View of the site today

Raymond F. Rola is the architect working with Haverford Square Properties, a West Philly-based developer that focuses on student rentals (having been Drexel students themselves). Rola Architects isn’t new to renovations of historic properties, having been part of a couple of our favorite conversions, so we expect to see something of similar quality for this impressive church. Given that this parcel is zoned RM-1, multifamily use is permitted by right, which is music to our ears.

The initial submission to the Historical Commission wasn’t embraced by the HC staff, and a revised effort came through a few days ago. We still don’t know whether the plan will get approved by the Commission, but if it does, a two story addition will rise over the old chapel on the Parrish Street side and the entire property will house 21 residential units. The original submission had a rendering which we’ve included below, but the newer one changes the exterior cladding from metal siding to cement board paneling.

A rendering of the two-story addition being proposed - but it won't look quite like this

Along with the addition, plans call for the cleaning, restoration and/or replacement of all masonry, doors and windows. We are very pleased to know that these brilliant flourishes will be treated respectfully as buildings with details like these are not exactly shooting up all over the place these days. Before any of this work can proceed though, the developers will need sign-off from the Historical Commission – hopefully they’ll be able to find an approach that engenders support from the Commission and works out financially for the developers.

Close-up of masonry details
Intricate stonework should really pop once cleaned and restored

Located at the corner of 42nd & Parrish, this property is a block from the diagonal Lancaster Avenue both to the south and the west. This stretch of Lancaster has seen development inch up from Drexel and further into the Belmont neighborhood in recent years. While the area is already quite well-established, there’s still a great deal of potential for development moving forward, and we imagine this project will serve as a worthy addition to the area.