A massive new apartment building will rise on the site of the partially demolished Christ Memorial Reformed Episcopal Church on 43rd and Chestnut streets in University City, according to construction permits filed Friday.
The permits describe a complex with 278 apartments units on the second through seventh floors, accompanied by commercial space on the ground floor.
Alterra Property Group purchased the 37,626-square-foot former church property in February for $17 million. The developer recently completed a six-story apartment building two blocks away.
Alterra’s managing partner, Leo Addimando, said he did not have comment on his plans for the church site.
The West Philly neighborhoods around the University of Pennsylvania have seen a wave of demolitions in recent years, as developers seek to meet the demand for student housing in the midst of one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the United States. The redevelopment has also contributed to the area’s changing demographics. Spruce Hill is one of 14 sections of Philadelphia that were majority black in 2000 but not in 2014 due to a large influx of students and young professionals who moved into the area, according to a 2016 Pew study.
Much of the gothic-style 19th-century church on the corner of 43rd and Chestnut was razed when Alterra bought the property. A prior owner, Guy Laren of Constellar Corporation began demolishing the building in early 2018. The only remnant of the once-soaring structure is along the north end of the site on Ludlow Street.
The building will include a green roof and 54 underground parking spaces, as well as four electric vehicle charging stations, according to permits. Alterra, based in Center City recently developed Lincoln Square in South Philadelphia and the Granary near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other mixed-use projects.
It is not immediately clear if the project will require zoning exemptions. The 43rd and Chestnut Street site is zoned CMX-4, a category that allows for high-density, large development. Regardless, it will have to go before the city’s advisory Civic Design Review board because of the large number of units. Addimando sits on the committee and says he will recuse himself when the project comes before CDR.
Projects that trigger the Civic Design Review process require developers to meet with local neighborhood groups registered with the city to represent the area. Representatives of the Alterra Property Group will present the project to the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee on May 20.
“We just know it’s going to be big, we don’t know anything about it,” said Barry Grossbach, zoning chair of the Spruce Hill neighborhood group. “We are anxious to talk with the developer about this project because this is a huge space in a very important part of our neighborhood.”
In 2017, the Spruce Hill Community Association successfully advocated for the downzoning of much of the residential areas of the neighborhood to forestall teardowns of Victorian townhomes for new student housing.
In an interview earlier this year with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Addimando said the project would be geared toward graduate students, young professionals, and college students.