Given its location at 4200 Chester Ave., a stone’s throw from both Penn and University of the Sciences, you might expect that Millcreek Tavern would lean heavily into the neighboring student population and work hard to attract that demographic. And sure, students find their way through the door, but the bar/restaurant is probably better known as a spot for locals, attracting a diverse group of guests from different walks of life in the neighborhood. If that sounds like your kind of spot, we suggest you check it out sooner rather than later, because the clock is ticking on this business, and more specifically, on the building it inhabits.
In a neighborhood known for its architecture, this building ain’t winning any prizes because of its first floor. Once upon a time there were two attractive twins at this address, and you can still see what’s left of them on the upper floors of the building. Many decades and several owners ago, the first floor of the building expanded to accommodate several retail spaces and the addition is not terribly compatible with the rest of the building, let alone the rest of the block. This situation won’t persist for much longer though, since Core Development purchased the property at the end of last year and is now pursuing a plan to demolish the building and replace it with a new mixed-use development.
The developers presented their plans to the community last month, describing a five-story building with 48 apartments and a little over 3,000 sqft of retail space. While this would be a significant departure from the current situation at this corner, it would be fairly compatible in terms of height and density with some other properties nearby, including two buildings on opposite corners of this intersection. Despite this fact, the project encountered significant opposition from the community, according to a story from West Philly Local. The reasons for the opposition sounded fairly boilerplate for projects of this ilk – gentrification, parking, affordability, and lack of resources for the community. As for whether these issues will hold water with the ZBA when it hears the case next month, it remains to be seen.
As for what will happen if the ZBA doesn’t approve the project, we couldn’t tell you. This property is unfortunately zoned CMX-1, which certainly limits the by-right options. Still, this developer has built plenty of other projects in West Philly and around town, so if they don’t get the approvals they seek, we imagine they’ll just pivot to a new concept, perhaps one that’s closer to their three-story building across the street. Whatever happens, we don’t imagine it’ll stop the closure of Millcreek Tavern, so as we said before, you might want to get over there soon if you’d like to check it out before they pour their final drink.