The empty church at 40th and Sansom streets will soon see new dining and retail options.
The Fortieth Street M.E. Church will be demolished and replaced with a contemporary glass-front retail space that will house four new dining and shopping options, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Whirled Peace Frozen Yogurt and Philadelphia Chutney Company. The fourth property is still available for lease.
However, the timeline for the project remains uncertain. “I can’t give you any specific dates,” P&A Associates co-founder Peter Shaw said. P&A Associates is a real estate development company that purchased the church in 2007. The church is currently empty.
Shaw said in October that the demolition would take place by the end of that month.
HiddenCity Philadelphia reported in September 2011 that the demolition would happen by the end of 2011.
Many familiar with the West Philadelphia community who were interviewed were unaware of the upcoming changes and were unable to comment.
A retail space was not the original plan for 125 S. 40th Street. When they bought the building, P&A Associates intended to secure tenants who would use it as is or with slight modifications.
“We would have preferred to keep [the building], but someone would have to pay us rent,” Shaw said.
With the future of the building at a standstill, P&A decided to cater to the desires of the community. “We are doing what there is a demand for, and there is a demand for new stores,” Shaw said.
Although the church was built in 1872, the Philadelphia Historical Commission does not designate it as historic, and therefore, the commission does not have jurisdiction over its demolition.
The church has served three congregations in over 135 years. It was designed by architectural firm Sloan & Hutton, who also designed the Kelly Writers House.
Students have expressed lament about the demolition, but are looking forward to the new retail options.
“I wish they could save it by restarting services or preserve it for history, but if it’s empty and there are no other options, they might as well build something useful,” College sophomore Kaley Martin said.
Wharton sophomore Nathan Fleetwood also expressed his concern, but is hopeful about the community benefits that the retail space may bring.
“It’s always a shame to lose a beautiful building on campus, especially at a historic, Ivy League university like Penn,” he said.
“However, if it brings more jobs and potentially new dining options so we don’t always have to go to Bobby’s and Chipotle and if there is not much local sentimental attachment, then I could definitely be on board,” he added.