Subway restaurant demolished; only housing to be rebuilt
Issue date: 5/5/06 Section: News
"The old apartments reached the end of their life cycles, they were a mess," said James Murphy, the owner of the property. "The new apartments will have central air, dishwashers, security systems, intercoms, internet and cable. They are basically luxury apartments, obviously more efficient than the previous ones."
The two bedroom, two bathroom apartments will offer many amenities, including a washer and dryer, garages for four cars and security systems. There will be eleven two bedroom units.
Some of the apartments will be handicapped accessible. There are apartments that are designated as 'A' apartments and will be outfitted to be handicapped accessible. 'B' apartments have not been outfitted to be handicapped accessible but could be made handicapped accessible if necessary.
"We hired an interior designer so we have custom kitchens and a lot of color in the apartments," Murphy said.
The Subway restaurant, which was on the first floor of the building, will not return to the new building. The Subway Corporation, who leased the property from Murphy, had rejected seven drafts of a lease agreement before Murphy decided to forgo construction of the restaurant and use the space for another apartment.
Murphy and Val Tsaturyan, the manager of this Subway location, had both hoped to re-open the restaurant, however the complications with the Subway Corporation proved to be irreconcilable.
"Val and I agreed to the proposed lease terms each time, only to be told by Subway that they did not agree to the conditions," Murphy said. "Neither Val nor I were happy and I was out of time."
Tsaturyan is currently looking for another space to build his restaurant.
After multiple proposed drafts for the construction, Murphy, the Powelton Village Civic Association and the University had finally come to an arrangement that is acceptable to all three parties after years of disagreement.
Frank B. Sarlo, chair of the PVCA zoning committee, said that the final version of the project accommodates their concerns as well as the University's.
"The PVCA zoning committee did oppose Mr. Murphy's original and at least one other scheme for this site," Sarlo said. "It was finally amended to a version that responded to the original committee objections regarding set back on 34th Street and parking issues."
Another issue was the preservation of a historic building. However, the property was not protected under city law.
"The building was not listed on the Philadelphia Historic register, and there is no legal way that the demolition of the remaining north half of the twin could have been blocked," Sarlo said.
Murphy said that it took patience and perseverance to amend this project so it would satisfy all of those involved and he greatly appreciates the cooperation of the PVCA, University and the opportunity to offer upgraded housing to the students.
"There are sessions that I have had with some representatives from Drexel," Murphy said. "We designed the apartments to function almost like graduate housing."
Murphy said his appreciation of the University students contributed to his desire to improve the property.
"I would also like to thank the Drexel student body, who have always been great tenants," said Murphy. "If I didn't mean it, I wouldn't be bothering with this construction."
Being a previous Powelton Village resident himself, Murphy understood the lack of adequate housing. He also noted that the University of Pennsylvania is constantly undergoing reconstruction and renovation, and that Drexel and its affiliates are entitled to the same level of development.
The previous residents' leases were up September 2005, and Murphy did not search for new tenants in anticipation of this project. He expects the construction to be finished around September 15 of this year.
Residents of the area have mixed feelings regarding the construction.
Despite the allowance under the law, Michael Jones, a resident of 34th Street and PVCA archivist, believes the construction to be detrimental to the integrity of historic Powelton Village.
"For the record, and as someone who lives on 34th Street I was, and continue to be, personally opposed to the demolition of what I consider to be a building that contributes to the Powelton Village Historic District," Jones said.
"I'm really excited for the construction on 34th Street," Levine said. "I hope they build something magnificent there. Maybe I will rent one of the apartments when they are finished," said Sam Levine, a sophomore majoring in film.