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Exploring West Shore, Philly’s smallest neighborhood

Fairmount Park is 230 times its size


Welcome to West Shore. Despite its name, it’s not a beach town in Orange County. It’s the smallest neighborhood in Philadelphia that sits right on the edge of the Schuylkill River.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. Aside from University City, many of the neighborhoods west of the Schuylkill River tend to get lumped into one category: West Philly.

But according to the city’s most recent data from 2016, West Shore is the tiniest of the 149 official neighborhoods in Philly. Bound by 42nd, Woodland Avenue, 47th, and the Schuylkill River, it spans just five blocks and clocks in at 40 acres.

For reference, the city’s massive Fairmount Park system is more than 9,200 acres.

Like a number of West Philly neighborhoods, West Shore has suffered a bit of a decline compared to the boom of development that nearby University City has experienced in the past decade or so. But things may be looking up, given the teensy neighborhood’s location. With the historic Woodlands Cemetery at its edge and the new development proposed for the University of the Sciences campus, West Shore is poised for change.

The University of the Sciences campus takes up a majority of West Shore, and it has plans to erect a new dormitory and classroom structure at the now shuttered Alexander Wilson Public School. Ground retail will also be included, adding to the long-standing commercial corridor of Woodland Avenue.

The avenue in particular could use a boost, according to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission's 2035 plan for the district. Some popular retailers and have taken up shop in West Shore, including 'Lil Pop Shop and Guacamole Mex-Grill, catering to the local students and neighborhood residents.

The architecture of the neighborhood is mostly three-story rowhomes, though good luck finding any homes for sale here. Just four streets off Woodland Avenue are residential, and many of the families have lived here for years (in fact, some of their portraits are painted onto Alexander Wilson School's murals).

Most recent home sales from last year were a mix of fixer-uppers and renovated properties, including a 4-bedroom, 2-bath rowhome that sold for $189,000.

But there are some homes available for rent, which makes sense given that the university is next door, with rents ranging in the $1,000 to $1,100 range for 2- and 3-bedroom homes.

As for transportation, its tiny stature means it's a neighborhood of walkers. But given its location along Woodland Avenue, not five minutes go by without one of the West Philly trolley lines zooming up and down the street.

Note: Neighborhood data came from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission's 2016 data, which notes that boundaries are not meant to be interpreted as official.