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One West Condos Bring Subtle Change to Chestnut Hill

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The new development is the neighborhood's first in 20 years

Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood that appears trapped in time. Its boutique-strewn shopping strip along Germantown Avenue is lined with mom-and-pop shops. The yards of homes along picturesque residential streets are impeccably manicured. Even the neighborhood playground still has a wooden swing set.

But to say that Chestnut Hill has remain largely unchanged in recent years would be to ignore One West, a new residential development that sits smack dab in the middle of Germantown Avenue's shopping district.

Actually, go ahead and ignore it—that's kind of the whole point.

The $35 million project is a mixed-use development spearheaded by Chestnut Hill resident and developer Richard Snowden. The project's history goes back to 2008, when the property, a former car dealership, became available at the height of the housing bust.

Today, the two-acre site features a five-story building with 20 luxury condos and ground floor retail. Its main tenant: Fresh Market, a national grocery store.

It was a rare move for a neighborhood that prides itself on local businesses, nine of which are more than 50 years old. (For a prime example, look no further than the cat clinic next door to Fresh Market—it sits in the Detwiler House, the oldest building in Chestnut Hill that dates back to 1744.)

As Snowden puts it, "I didn't want One West to be splashy. I really stressed to the designers that it had to be a quiet, good neighbor."

Snowden hired SPG3 architects, a local firm that designed Whole Foods on South Street. The end result: A mostly brick structure with some classic Chestnut Hill details mixed in, including Wissahickon shist stone, expansive terraces on every level, floor-to-ceiling windows, and French doors. Snowden went so far as to choose dark green exterior finishes to make the building appear to recede from the street.

"We wanted to make the building seem as small as possible," Snowden said.

For its size and location—it sits right in the middle of Germantown Avenue—One West surprisingly fits in well for traditionally quaint neighborhood. As Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron noted, "One West demonstrates that a large apartment building doesn't have to be overbearing."

Still, the development didn't come without critics. When Snowden initially proposed the project in 2011, petitions circulated opposing its construction. Snowden, who lives just a few blocks from One West, met with community members multiple times to make changes to the project to appease its neighbors.

"I believe in the process and expected to be grilled just like anybody else," Snowden said. "It's why this neighborhood has stayed the way it is."

The interior finishes of the condos, which range from $875,000 to $2.5 million, will stay true to Chestnut Hill style, too. Buyers can opt for what Snowden calls the conservative package, which includes hardwood floors and original millwork.

All of the condos are still under construction, though a tour of the property revealed expansive views of the neighborhood from the terraces—one of the largest patios is 1,800 square feet alone and has a small pool.

Five of the 20 condos have been bought. Snowden says most of the interested tenants are in the 55-75 age range and are looking to downsize and "have a little bit of fun." It's a similar trend that Center City is experiencing, with empty nesters moving from the suburbs to the city's luxury condos.

Just don't expect any amenities at One West. Says Snowden, "Chestnut Hill is the amenity."