A century ago, Spruce Hill grew up in the city’s western reaches. A streetcar suburb, so called for the ease of access created by Philly’s new transit system, this neighborhood was where middle class workers fled the urban landscape at day’s end for tranquil, tree-lined streets and grand Victorian homes. After World War II, however, automobiles opened up the outer suburbs and the neighborhood began a slow descent.
“There was a time 30 years ago,” says realtor John Featherman, Associate Broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services – Fox & Roach Realtors, “that people didn’t want to live west of 38th Street, north of Chestnut or south of Larchwood.” All that has changed, however. Now one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Spruce Hill – from Market to Woodland and 40th to 46th Streets – finds itself in the enviable position of near complete market saturation. “There are no longer vacant properties and very little housing inventory,” Featherman confides. “Realtors can’t get owners to list their homes fast enough to keep pace with demand.” In fact, there are currently only nine houses on the market.
Instrumental in that turn-around has been West Philadelphia’s hospitals and universities, particularly Penn, which pioneered a program to provide employees with incentives – closing cost reductions and forgivable loans for home improvements – to assist with purchasing and rehabbing homes in the area. “People used to live in Center City and commute to University City,” says Featherman. “Now they want to live in the neighborhood.” While gentrification began within the desirable Penn Alexander school catchment, it has now expanded particularly among buyers who don’t have school-aged children and recognize that living outside the catchment can save them $50,000-$100,000 on a purchase price.
One of the things that makes Spruce Hill is special, says Featherman, is that the “architecture here is great; there are tons of Victorians and older homes with character, many with updates on the inside.” Along with terrific homes, the neighborhood offers residents lots of amenities particularly near 40th and Walnut – which boasts a Fresh Grocer supermarket and multiplex cinema – and the bustling Baltimore Avenue commercial corridor, which Featherman says “used to be a dividing line, but is now a multi-cultural backbone.” The area’s ethnic diversity not only makes the neighborhood more vibrant, but offers residents a smorgasbord of food choices: Southeast Asian, Mediterranean and African restaurants sit side-by-side.
Clark Park is a “microcosm of Spruce Hill,” says Featherman, and exudes “West Philly character that you won’t get anywhere else; it’s got its own flavor.” The area’s central public greenspace is a hub for recreational activities, including a year-round farmers’ market and annual Shakespeare festival (which begins tonight July 26 with “Coriolanus” and runs through the 30th).
ON THE MARKET
4200 Pine St., #101
1 bedroom, 1 bath
This bright and airy one-bedroom condo in a historic building features high ceilings, hardwood floors and expansive windows on three exposures. The open kitchen offers top-of-the line stainless appliances and a double-thick Caesarstone counter-top. A large bedroom overlooks the landscaped courtyard and the beautiful Trumbauer Mansion. French doors open out on the patio, perfect for entertaining. You’ll also get lots of storage and a walk-in laundry/utility closet with a full-size Bosch Axxis Washer/Dryer. Best of all, it comes with a parking space just outside the front door.
Contact: Jeff “City” Block, City Block Team at Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Realtors, (215) 790-5662, firstname.lastname@example.org
400-4 S. 45th St., #3D
$2,095 per month
2 bedrooms, 2 baths
This large unit in the totally rehabbed, pet-friendly Sedgley features reclaimed pine hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, high ceilings, ceiling fans and large windows for plenty of natural light. An inviting living and dining area opens into the kitchen which includes quartz counters, a subway tile backsplash and electric stainless steel appliances. You’ll also get two light-filled bedrooms with lots of closet space and two tiled bathrooms with quartz counter vanities. The washer and dryer are included in the unit and bike storage is available in the basement.
Contact: Noah Ostroff, Keller Williams Philly/PhillyLiving, (215) 821-8807, email@example.com
Dock Street Brewing
Housed in a converted 110-year-old firehouse on Baltimore Avenue, Dock Street calls its “bohemian philosophy” a perfect complement to the neighborhood’s “progressive and eclectic counterculture and a mixture of race, creed and background.” Along with favorites like its Bohemian Pilsner, Dock Street has also been brewing the resistance with beers like “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Drumpf” and “A Pathological Lager.” Pair a craft beer brewed onsite with a wood-fired pizza or burger or visit the new cannery and tasting lounge next door.
701 South 50th St., dockstreetbeer.com
This foodie favorite may be tucked into a historic Victorian, but it’s is anything but traditional. Routinely topping “best of” lists, Marigold Kitchen is renowned for inventiveness and experimentation. The 12 course tasting menu ($90 per person) might include anything from “Duck Scrapple with Sunny Side Egg and Coffee Reduction” to “Irish Cheddar Cream Cannoli with Guinness Drizzle.” It’s all chefs’ choice, so just sit back, relax and don’t forget to bring some wine; it’s BYO only.
501 S. 45th St., marigoldkitchenbyob.com
WHAT IT COSTS
$508,966 sale price for a single family home/condominium
$1,400 per month median rental price
New in the Neighborhood:
In a neighborhood with lots of historic housing and little room for new development, word of a proposed five story apartment building is news. Set on a former parking lot at 4043 Baltimore Ave., the building would feature 49 small one-bedroom units which would rent from $1,225/month and 17 parking spots. There are also plans for a retail space. If zoning is approved, construction is expected to begin in January.