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Until now, residential development hasn’t moved that far into where University City blurs into the rest of West Philadelphia.

Alterra Property Group wants to bring 352 apartment units to the intersection of 42nd and Market Streets, on the edge of West Philadelphia’s University City.

The six-story modular building would include 22,511 square feet of retail space, a roof deck, amenity space, and 110 parking spaces.

“We think there’s a lot of demand for mid-size [apartment buildings] that are reasonably priced, although I’m not saying it’s affordable housing by any stretch,” said Leo Addimando, managing partner with Alterra.

The apartment project would utilize modular construction techniques, where much of the structure is built off site. These structures are cheaper to build than traditional projects, with substantial savings on labor costs. That’s why, Addimando says, they can be rented for hundreds of dollars less than typical new construction units.

Alterra has built multiple modular apartment buildings in recent years. A similar project now stands nearby at 42nd and Chestnut Streets, and includes a new Fine Wine & Good Spirits store as its ground-floor retail.

Another recent Alterra modular apartment building is at Broad and Spring Garden Streets, and features a Giant supermarket as its retail offering. Addimando says that there are no commercial tenants to announce yet at Market and 42nd, but that the company is in discussions with retailers, medical offices and restaurants.

Development interest at the intersection of 42nd and Market is a recent phenomenon. To date, residential development hasn’t moved that far north or west in the area where University City blurs into the rest of West Philadelphia. Most new projects have been concentrated to the south, on Chestnut Street, and farther east on Market, closer to the density of education and technology institutions below 40th Street.

Currently, the intersection of Market and 42nd is home to surface parking lots, a low-rise Social Security building, and the C.L. Presser construction supply company.

In 2020, plans were announced for an eight-story, 250,000-square-foot laboratory building on the northeast corner of the intersection. Alterra’s apartment building would rise on the southwest corner on another surface parking lot and the space where the C.L. Presser building currently stands.

“We are excited to be adding density in the western University City, right across the street from some very exciting life sciences buildings,” Addimando said. “We could have built more in terms of units and square footage but we chose not to do that. We try not to overload our sites and keep it appropriate for the location.”

by Jake Blumgart