"I'm not especially concerned" about all the residential towers planned/under construction around the Penn and Drexel campuses, says Al Krigman, boss at KRF Management on S. 45th St.
"Penn's new off-campus dormitories -- the are not called this, but that's what they are -- the Hub at 40th and Chestnut and the Radian at 40th and Walnut, seem to have had no impact on us whatever. The Domus condos and Brandywine's proposed tower at 32nd and Walnut also aren't keeping me awake at night. Nor is the latest horrible proposal to overpopulate 40th & Pine by building what amounts to a dormitory there."
That's because the rest of U-City -- the students, staff and longtime neighborhood residents who occupy blocks of old rowhomes and three-story twins carved into apartments by Krigman and larger and smaller landlords -- "don't want or can't afford to pay" new-buiding rents approaching $2,000/month; "don't want the semi-structured environment" some of the big landlord's managers propose; "are extremely serious about their study, research and writing," and would sooner avoid noisy amenities; "often have families"; prefer the "flexibility" some small landlords offer; and "realize housing value has nothing to do with whether the countertops are granite, the appliances are Vikings, the bathroom has a Jacuzzi," or whether there are brand-name retailers on the block, or even in the lobby.
Although, Krigman added, some of his peers up in Powelton are worried about Drexel's eventual expansion. I reminded him that Drexel boss (and Penn's ex-No. 2) John Fry has pledged to expand, not towards Drexel's playing fields in West Philly, but East, toward Hahnemann, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Drexel's other Center City properties; and has taken steps in this direction, for example, by buying the parking lots adjoining 30th St. Station and the Firestone store on Market and other easterly properties.
Krigman's still glad he helped fight some of the Penn West Philly expansion projects he says were supported by Fry when Fry was at Penn in the 1990s, along with Penn-allied developers like Omar Blaik, "ranging from historical designation of the entire Spruce Hill neighborhood, to establishment of a Neighborhood/Business Improvement District, which would have had a deleterious effect on the private rental housing aspects of the community." Keep West Philly funky!