Our Home in West Philadelphia
Late last year, U3 Advisors’ staff unpacked our boxes in our new office: 22 South 40th Street – the historic West Philadelphia Institute building – in the Philadelphia neighborhood where our firm got its start – U3 Advisors CEO Omar Blaik and Senior Advisor Tom Lussenhop helped begin the revitalization of this corridor in the 1990s during their tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. While we’ve now worked in dozens of cities all over North America, West Philly will always be home, and we’re so excited to be deepening our investment in this corner of our community.
Completed in 1876 by noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, the West Philadelphia Institute building has long served as an anchor to the vibrant and constantly evolving 40th Street commercial corridor in West Philadelphia. Over its life, the building has housed a variety of tenants that mirror the changes the neighborhood has experienced over the last 145 years.
Originally built as the “West Philadelphia Institute,” the building supported learning and vocational training for neighborhood residents through classes, a library, and large lecture hall. The structure originally featured a double-height second floor which allowed for these activities to take place. The West Philadelphia Institute closed in 1896 and the building soon evolved to become the West Philadelphia branch of the Free Library. Five years later the library moved out and the W.R. Taylor & Son Construction Company moved in followed 25 years later by Walter G. Wroe’s Dancing School. In the 1920’s, the building’s façade was altered by architect John T. Windrim when it was renovated to become the West Philadelphia offices and showroom for the Philadelphia Electric Company. A third floor was inserted into the double height space and the exterior façade was altered to allow for a storefront on the ground floor.
In the mid 1970’s, metal panels were added to the exterior – casing the original brick, and much of the ground floor was sealed off as means to protect the original architecture and serve the needs of the owner.
In 2017, U3 Ventures, a West Philadelphia based real estate development company (and U3 Advisors’ sister company), purchased the building, and in 2019, took on the restoration of the property with the help of ISA Architects. Opened in 2021, the building has been uncovered and restored to serve the 40th Street corridor and future generations of West Philadelphians.
In 2022, the building was honored by the Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia with a Grand Jury Award.