Last week, Curbed Philly, a Vox Media publication that explores the Philadelphian real estate market, featured an announcement for a new apartment complex marketed to culinary arts and hospitality majors — “foodies,” as the article describes it.
The construction for Good Food Flats is underway at 40th and Baring streets in West Philadelphia by developer Cross Properties, who are the brains behind student-geared properties such as 1530 Chestnut and 1616 Walnut. But what kind of students could possibly afford an apartment in a Rittenhouse high-rise? Probably the rich kids, — whoever the “rich kids” that we tend to blame might actually be. As it turns out, the rent for the given floor plans seems pretty reasonable for a luxury apartment, not to mention that reviews are five stars across the board at the Walnut location. The H&M downstairs doesn’t even come close.
Good Food Flats is marketed for its numerous amenities that would appeal mostly to culinary majors: a rooftop lounge and garden, a food chemistry lab, food safety courses, space for pop-up entrepreneurship and restaurants and visits from professional chefs, not to mention the gym and sustainable energy.
I wish I could confirm whether or not such amenities will actually deliver, but we’ll have to wait and see, although their Facebook page already has two five-star ratings. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the amenities come as promised, and three out of four suitemates are Penn or Drexel culinary arts or hospitality majors, with the fourth roommate being a friend who’s really into food.
The food lab is the only space with real pictures so far, boasting a test kitchen with stainless-steel counters and orange stools. The area appears to be equipped for even the most heinous of culinary accidents, should a procrastinating culinary student attempt to cram for his technical and overshoot his success.
It’s too soon to conclude whether or not the rent is worth it, but the idea is intriguing: what if we had a residential environment for students so specific to their field of study that they could actually practice everything at home? What if a community was able to develop around the same things that would normally be left to lab?
I speak from a lab background that requires heavy machinery, so my own field is out of the question when it comes to amenities. And yet, I’m so used to my peers wanting to get as far away from their work as possible that I do the same, even if it means working alone on campus for hours and crashing late in my apartment.
There is a reason that we have picked to study whatever we do, and the importance of our own fields of study merit conversation as well as trial and error. We each need a space where our ideas are welcomed and able to be tested even if it’s just for kicks. Culinary students certainly grind for periods both long and intense, but it’s pleasant to have the luxury of tinkering a technique either alone or with other majors just to see what would happen.
I personally love watching my culinary friends cook something simple and offering my own tastes and experience to make the work more personal, however inexperienced I may be, but I wish that I as an engineering student had the same luxury of hearing out friends’ opinions and bringing them into my own work, even if they have no idea what a differential equation is (and I’m relieved they don’t, for their own sake).
What if there was such a comparable community for entrepreneurs and scientists — the sort of hands-on students who work in narrow, close-knit groups but often don’t get to have the same casual encounters and serendipitous meetings as more discussion-based students?
The Good Food Flats concept is a notable first step in the popularization of the work environment, especially considering that Cross Properties’ other student properties are more traditional, appealing to a general student population rather than a targeted community of students. We ought to observe the success of the concept, watching whether it evolves into the usual student property — that is, one that sees many students pass through its doors only to go straight to their own suites — or the positive and innovative community that it aspires to be. I, for one, hope that the idea of specialized living will encourage students in every sort of community to sit and break bread with one another.