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Living in University City

University City is a vibrant, urban setting home to numerous prestigious institutions of higher education including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Located west of the Schuylkill River (pronounced skoo-kuhl) and Center City, the main downtown area of Philadelphia, University City stretches between Market Street and Powelton Avenue to the north, University Avenue and Civic Center Boulevard to the south, and 52nd Street to the west.

The distinguished reputations of each of the schools and their collective accomplishments in the fields of healthcare, technology, and science have transformed the University City enclave into a bustling hub of entrepreneurship and scholastic opportunity.

Best-in-class public transportation, an envious food and art scene, and historical architecture are just a few of the additional reasons that make University City an exciting place to live, work, and study for graduate students, medical residents, doctoral students, and other working professionals.

As a graduate school student at UPenn, Drexel, the University of the Sciences, the University City Lofts in the West Powelton neighborhood of University City is an esteem pocket to live in
University City is home to a prestigious network of public and private universities making it the best place to live for graduate students seeking housing

Source: UPenn Free Photo Library

The Neighborhoods of University City

Graduate students seeking to live in University City have many micro-neighborhoods to choose from, each carrying a distinct personality, type of housing, and price tag.

Squirrel Hill & Cedar Park

Squirrel Hill and Cedar Park are among one of the most diverse pockets of University City, where old meets new in an infectious Bohemian environment. An irregular shaped wedge situated between 46th and 522nd streets, bounded by Larchwood Avenue to the north, and Kingsessing Avenue to the South, Cedar Park and Squirrel Hill are home to a significant immigrant community and a myriad of multicultural restaurants and businesses such as the Mariposa Food Co-Op on Baltimore Avenue and the Common Beat record store.

At the heart of the area, residents will encounter a park of the same namesake, as well as Baltimore Avenue along which there are a number of public transit stops that make getting to other parts of University City without a car a breeze.

Housing largely consists of older apartment buildings and row houses, with little to no updates, making it easy to find a studio for as low as $875 a month or a 3-bedroom apartment for $1,900 a month.

However, despite its affordability, apartments in Cedar Park and Squirrel Hill tend to have limited amenities and finding parking can be a challenge, especially during the winter months. Additionally, out of all the neighborhoods in University City, Cedar Park and Squirrel Hill have the highest levels of property crime and theft which may not make it the ideal place to live for graduate students.

Garden Court

Garden Court is one of the smallest neighborhoods in University City and by far the most residential. An area that has for the most part been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Garden Court is located between 45th Street to the east, 52nd Street to the west, Locust Street to the north and Cedar Avenue to the south. Developed after the Great Depression as a car community, Garden Court has maintained its suburban roots.

Dominated by historic row houses with large, gated yards and tree lined streets, Garden Court is a scenic neighborhood. Residents will find few shops in this area save a small strip center with dollar stores, beauty salons, and a former Blockbuster requiring residents to leave the area on even the smallest trip for groceries.

Due to its general small size, housing options for graduate students will include a limited selection of dated apartment buildings, for prices between $1,300 to $1,974 a month. Most of these have not been upgraded in years and lack most modern amenities, such as air conditioning, which is why graduate students rarely choose to live in this pocket of University City.

Walnut Hill

Walnut Hill is located in the northwestern most parts of University City, spanning from Market Street to Spruce Street between 45th and 52nd Streets. Walnut Hill is known for its 2 and 3-story rowhomes and pre-war garden style apartments and is very suburban residential in nature.

A highly walkable area, residents will find everything they desire within close proximity including the oldest high school in West Philadelphia, an elementary school, dedicated bike lanes, a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, corner stores, specialty shops, and even major retailers.

Furthermore, as there are many bus routes leading in and out of Walnut Hill, as well as the presence of the Market-Frankford El stations, transportation from the area to anywhere in the Philadelphia is possible, affordable and fast. 

On the downside, Walnut Hill is an area that is rapidly undergoing gentrification. Once a community consisting only of undergraduate students seeking more affordable housing and working-class residents that have lived in the area for years, more mid-rise luxury apartments are springing up which is in turn pressuring prices up.

As an example, studios in the area used to average around $800 a month, whereas today that number has increased to $1,000 a month. It is also not uncommon to see Walnut Hill’s fair share of urban blight, vacant lots, empty homes, and trash, which can make it not the most aesthetically pleasing or safest neighborhood at night.

Spruce Hill

Spruce Hill is located between40th and 46th Streets with Market Street to the North and Woodland Avenue to the South. A racially and ethnically diverse area, Spruce Hill is a melting pot of art, culture and people. The area has a high concentration of restaurants, and residents that also happen to be foodies take delight in being close to the Daleng Restaurant, a popular spot for Asian fusion, as well as Tacotacomexican, one of the more popular Mexican restaurants in University City.

Spruce Hill is also a very family-oriented community hosting events such as the Annual Halloween Little Tot Parade and Party, Annual Community Organization Meetings for all West Philadelphia residents, and the annual May Fair.

Residents beam over Clark Park for its cleanliness, size, and provision of free movies, orchestra concerts, Shakespeare in the Park and other wholesome programming. Being so close to University City in certain areas just a 10-minute walk, Spruce Hill houses a large population of students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

However, while the area is safer than Cedar Park and Squirrel Hill, Spruce Hill still experiences its share of car thefts and burglaries. Parking can be limited to non-existent for resident, or come at an additional elevated cost, and being one of the denser, urban parts of University City, Spruce Hill and its collection of nightlife and bars also makes it more of a rowdy place to live, which for certain graduate students can be distracting.

Powelton Village

Powelton Village is situated in the northeastern most part of University City. From a prestigious neighborhood in the 1800’s to the most diverse community in West Philadelphia in the 1980’s, Powelton Village has undergone numerous changes, and has emerged as one of the core centers of student living in University City.

From traditional pizza shops to high-end boutiques, you can find it all in Powelton Village no matter your budget. Police and university security prominently stroll the area, making it one of the safest neighborhoods in University City, next to West Powelton.

Apartments in Powelton Village consist mostly of either shared housing in Victorian homes, or 1- to 3-bedroom apartments in dated brick buildings that have been more recently renovated with modern kitchens, central heat and air, hardwood-style floors, and in-unit washers & dryers.

The housing stock in general is very limited, which has caused prices to climb to as much as $2,200 a month for a luxury one bedroom apartment. Additionally, while graduate students love Powelton Village, that love is equally shared with the undergraduate students of both UPenn and Drexel, making frat parties a more than common occurrence in this area.

West Powelton

Of all the University City neighborhoods, West Powelton rises to the top as a local favorite among graduate students. Situated west of Powelton Village and the SEPTA subway-surface trolley Route 10 line, between Powelton Avenue and Market Street, West Powelton is the crown jewel of graduate student living in University City.

Along the main street of West Powelton, Lancaster Avenue, graduate students enjoy the unique collection of coffee shops, warehouses turned artists’ galleries and breweries, as well as bars and restaurants.

West Powelton is one of the safest neighborhoods in University City, also patrolled by police and campus security, and home to a Fresh Grocer and Trader Joe’s.

Voted one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia for working professionals, West Powelton is the best place for graduate students to live in University City. Housing in West Powelton is largely characterized by either row houses that have been converted into apartments, similar to what is available in Powelton Village, or newly built luxury, modern apartment buildings dotting the landscape, like those found at the University City Apartments.

The benefit of living in West Powelton, is that these luxury apartments, do not come at the steep prices you would find living in the buildings directly adjacent to campus. Additionally, parking is wildly available, everything you could require for day-to-day living can be found within close walking distance, and the area is a short 15-minute walk from the main campuses at UPenn, Drexel, and the University of the Sciences.

The University City Lofts offer the best value apartments for UPenn and Drexel graduate students to live in University City.
Graduate students smiling as they walk to the main campus at UPenn and Drexel is a common sight in West Powelton


The University City Apartements in West Powelton

The University City Apartments in West Powelton is the best place to live for graduate school students in University City.

A small community of 19 apartments ranging in size from one bedrooms to multilevel three bedrooms, the University City Apartments offer the best value in terms of off-campus housing for graduate students.

While the apartments at the University City Apartments are located a 10-to-15-minute walk from the main graduate school buildings, the difference in cost is too advantageous to overlook. Whereas a new luxury apartment building directly adjacent to campus can start at $2,000 a month for a studio, tenants at the University City Apartments save nearly half of that, finding 1-bedroom luxury apartments starting at $1,300 a month.

More importantly, the apartments at the University City Apartments provide similar if not superior amenities than what can be found at an equivalent price anywhere else in University City including ample available parking, a roof deck, a study lounge, an elevator, as well as modern units with luxury finishes, in unit washer and dryers, stainless steel kitchen appliances, ample light and air, breakfast bars, and deep soak tubs.

The University City Apartments area also conveniently close to the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, which is a huge benefit for medical residents, in addition to nursing students, graduate students, PhD candidates, and other working professionals.

Residents like Cierra, find living at the University City Apartments, “the most convenient thing especially [as] a doctoral student at Penn”. She personally loves the “convenience, closeness to campus, [where it] takes about 12 minutes to get to the graduate school of education”.

Book you private tour of the University City Apartments today at:

The University City Lofts are the best place for graduate students to live in University City due to the close proximity to campus, Center City, and major dining and shopping retailers.
Tenants at the University City Apartments save a lot of money just by living a quick 15 minute walk from campus without having to sacrifice modern amenities and luxury finishes