Abners

Abner's Cheesesteaks is one of multiple businesses located in the 3801 Chestnut building.

Credit: Cindy Chen

From the New College House, the recently renovated Hamilton Court Apartments, and the impending arrival of New College House West, the push for more student housing continues to transform University City.

This process, beyond housing, affects the broader West Philadelphia community. Penn is trying to evict The Fresh Grocer from its 17-year-old spot on 40th and Walnut streets. It hopes to make space for an ACME supermarket complex. Similarly, six fast food restaurants on 34th and Walnut streets were evicted to make space for Franklin's Table to open last year.

Soon, the businesses at the 3800 block on Chestnut Street may share that same fate.

Ted Pagano, the property owner at 38th and Chestnut streets, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he has had serious conversations with multiple parties interested in buying the property. Pagano added the building’s current tenants will remain as of now, but that no final decisions have been made about the building. 

Pagano declined to disclose who the parties looking to purchase the building are. He did, however, deny that prominent realtor Campus Apartments was among them.   

The market value of the property has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the city’s property list, the market value for 3801 Chestnut has increased in the last six years by nearly 275 percent.

The restaurants at the Chestnut 3800 block have been staples on Penn's campus for years.

The stores include Abner’s, which holds cheesesteak giveaways whenever Penn basketball scores a 100-point game. Additionally, the traditional Korean restaurant, Koreana’s, is housed in the building and so is the Indian buffet restaurant, Sitar.

Sitar India, located at 60 South 38th Street. (DP File Photo)

Also found at the Chestnut 3800 block is the family-run Furniture Campus Home Store, which moved from its location next to Urban Outfitters on 36th Street in 2015 and has established a loyal base of customers.

And buried in the building’s basement is Club Atlantis — Penn's only nearby strip club.

Multiple employees at several businesses, who asked their names not be included in this article to protect their jobs, confirmed that there have been rumors circulating about new realtors seeking to buy the building. While one says he’s confident that the businesses will remain in the building for years to come, another said he was not as sure. 

Pagano's family has sold his property to Penn in the past. From 1955 to 1974, Pagano either worked in or helped run his family’s eponymous pizza parlor, House of Pagano’s, on 36th and Walnut streets. In an interview with the Philadelphia City Paper in 2004, Pagano described his family restaurant as a place that had become an icon in West Philadelphia and a magnet for students, local sports stars, and national celebrities alike. 

Furniture Campus Home Store, located at 3801 Chestnut Street. (File Photo)

After lengthy litigation, however, Penn was able to purchase the property in 1960. Penn later demolished the building to make room for what is now the Annenberg School for Communication. 

For 14 years, House of Pagano's was located at 3633 Walnut and was later relocated to 3801 Chestnut. There, it installed a bar, the Campus Lounge, in the building’s basement. Following a temporary, city-mandated closure stemming from the service of alcohol to minors, the basement was converted into a strip club.

That strip club, although having changed ownership several times, is still there today as Club Atlantis — but the club, along with the other tenants on the 3800 Chestnut block, may not be there for much longer.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated Penn bought House of Pagano's property in 1984 and built the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. Penn actually bought the property in 1960 to build the Annenberg School for Communication. The DP regrets the error. 

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