hopelessoptimist wrote:hi everyone, I was just recently admitted off the WL to Penn and I'm super excited about attending in the fall. Right now, since this is all so new to me with regards to Penn, I'm really interested in finding out more info on housing options. Are there particular apartment complexes that seem to be the most popular for 1Ls and/or closest to the law school, like within walking distance or that have easy access to public transportation? My only previous knowledge of housing options for law schools in the DC area, so I really have no idea how the Philly market works, what certain price ranges will get you in terms of space and quality in the city, what neighborhoods are the best, etc. etc. Help?
First off, congratulations!
2400 Chestnut is generally a good choice for a first apartment for a number of reasons:
- Location: on the Center City (read: good) side of the Schuykill, and roughly a ten to fifteen minute walk from the law campus. The night view of the river and skyline is to die for, though the few blocks directly around the building are a little on the empty side.
- Amenities: very well outfitted building with gym, dry-cleaning, laundry on every floor, etc., and most utilities included in rent.
- Quality: sizable rooms with the option of paying more for pre-furnished.
- Clientele: about a third of the building's inhabitants are Penn graduate students.
2400's only real disadvantage is the cost, which while quite high by Philly standards (~$1,200 for a studio or ~$1,500 for a 1BR last I checked) is not unreasonable given the size of the apartments and the location.
2101 Chestnut, the Riverwest Condominiums building, has cheaper prices but slightly dumpier condos (and by that I mean they are mostly nice, but that the plumbing is shitty and the elevators are apparently run on steam engines and sorcery). On the upside they are also very spacious, and while it's a few minutes farther from school it's in a slightly better neighborhood (Rittenhouse, more or less) with better nearby bars/coffee shops/restaurants/grocery stores than 2400 Chestnut.
Anyhow, your best bet is to get on Philly Craigslist, turn on Map View, and enter the price range / apartment size you are looking for. Find a place with good photos that sounds like something you would like, call the realtor to make sure shit is legit, and when ready to make a decision just get the docs signed by email/fax.
look for a place either in easy walking/biking distance of Penn or with good access to Septa transit. This is easier than a lot of out-of-towners tend to think, since Center City Philly is relatively compact and you have the option of taking the Market Frankford Line (the Blue Line / El), the trolley (Green) line, or any of the numerous bus routes to get to Penn. In general I would recommend against living far enough away that you would need to make a transit connection, e.g. from the Broad Street (Orange) line to the El. Peak hour transit service is excellent and constant, but on weekends and off-peak hours you do not want to be stuck waiting for transfers all the time.
make sure your apartment or your building has laundry facilities. You will want to kill yourself fairly quickly if you have to rely on off-site laundromats.
live in Center City, not University City. Center City is where most good things happen in Philly, while University City is where drunken undergraduate frat pledges vomit all over the sidewalks as they stumble out of the shittiest, most overpriced bar they can find that manages to avoid brothel classification.
(I obviously exaggerate for effect: University City has some wonderful areas hidden between the undergraduate messiness and the
"neighborhood of significantly higher violent crime rates than more eastwardly neighborhoods in a city that already has one of the worst violent crime rates in the developed world" that is the world west of
(historically, let's go by more recent crime stats/anecdotes) 50th street, but everyone I have ever met from any Philly school was happier after they moved to Center City, which is where all your classmates will hang out anyway.)
People often opt for University City by default because of the cheap apartments, but you are much better often with the Graduate Hospital area of Center City, which is just as cheap but infinitely nicer.
live in walking distance of a good grocery store, preferably Trader Joe's. Philly is a notoriously poor town for grocery selection, though they're improving pretty rapidly in that department.
- DO NOT
live: west of 45th Street (50th at absolute max), north of Market St (particularly in West Philly), south of Christian Street, or anywhere along Grays Ferry.
- DO NOT
bring a car to the city unless you plan to live in the suburbs or have another good reason for paying exorbitant monthly parking rates and dealing with the PPA. Philly is one of the most walkable/bikable major cities in the country, and as a student there are few good reasons to own a vehicle.
- DO NOT
agree to room with someone you have never met unless you absolutely cannot afford to live on your own, not even in a cozy $600 Graduate Hospital studio with included utilities (yes, these do exist). This one is probably controversial, but in my experience it is far too risky and far too potentially distracting from your studies.
Anyway, that's way more information and opinion than you asked for, but maybe this can be of help to others as well.