For as long as we’ve been at Drexel, we’ve been fortunate to have many great restaurants, food trucks, convenience stores and other dining establishments on campus and within short walking distance. However, students who live on or near campus and want to cook their own food have not been so fortunate. The nearest supermarkets are The Fresh Grocer at 40th and Walnut streets and Trader Joe’s at 21st and Market streets, both quite a distance for college students without a car to transport groceries back to their apartment.
With that being the case, we were pleased to hear that plans are in the works to build a new supermarket closer to many Drexel students’ off-campus apartments in the Mantua area of West Philadelphia. Mantua’s boundaries are Mantua Avenue to the north, Spring Garden Street to the south, 31st Street to the east and 40th Street to the west. The project, tentatively named “Westview Plaza” by real estate developer Aquinas Realty Partners, will be funded in part by a $2.75 million redevelopment assistance grant from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. Preliminary plans call for the site to be built around the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Mount Vernon Street.
The blocks in Mantua currently tagged for the project were not part of the original plan. A site closer to Drexel’s campus was previously considered. While the current tentative site will be very convenient for students living in Mantua and northern Powelton Village, it’s not an ideal location for all students. It’s outside Drexel Public Safety’s patrol boundaries in an area that is more prone to crime than the areas between our campus and the two existing supermarkets in our vicinity. Ideally, we need a supermarket that is close to campus and that we can feel safe walking to 24/7.
One major need that the Drexel University Master Plan does not address is an easily accessible on-campus grocery store. The Chestnut Street Development will add 11 retail spaces, many of which will be food service options, but students will continue to desire a convenient grocery store that functions primarily for the campus population. We’d love to see the master plan altered to include this necessity.