Big Philly Development News; Marriott, 2116 Chestnut, 2400 South

The Marriott Courtyard is expected to open up at the Navy Yard sometime during the second quarter of 2013, if all goes according to plan.   Ensemble Hotel Partners and local developer Louis A. Cicalese will develope and own the 168-room hotel.  Liberty Property and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. reached an agreement for Ensemble to construct the hotel.  Marriott Corp. will manage the facility.

The Building is designed by Erdy McHenry Architects of Philadelphia.  The fate of the project will depend on Ensemble arranging proper financing.  Construction is set to start soon on the hotel, which would be the first at the Navy Yard and serve the growing corporate population being cultivated in the steadily increasing new business district, home to Urban Outfitters, Tastykake and soon Glaxo SmithKline.

Over at 2116 Chestnut Street, the John Buck Company recently bought the center City property and has plans to construct a $104 million, 34-story apartment building containing 319 units replacing the Sidney Hillman Medical Center.  Sidney Hillman/ The Philadelphia Joint Board, Workers United are allying with John Buck of Chicago on redevelopment of 2116 Chestnut.  Demolition is well underway and the project is expected to produce 900 construction jobs.

Toll Brothers continues to Build in South Philadelphia, showing no fear of the for-sale housing world.  The developers are set to break ground across from its Naval Square project on 66 townhomes.  The $31 million project is called 2400 South and is part of a larger phase of a residential project at the site.  Eventually, Toll Bothers plans to construct 56 condominiums but is still selling condos at Naval Square, so they will hold off until those units are wrapped up.  Apparently townhouses and condos are still selling, just as long as the price is right and the location is perfect.

SEPTA Delays Smart Card Contract

SEPTA has postponed awarding a contract to build its new fare collection system, expected to cost about $100 million.  It will replace tokens and establish an open payment system whereby riders will be able to pay fairs with either a credit card or mobile device with the appropriate technology.

The contracts have been delayed repeatedly, now until November, according to spokesman Richard Maloney.  The authority originally hoped to announce a wining bid at its October board meeting.  They are still evaluating the previous work of the bidders.  Three companies are currently vying for the contracts: ACS Transport Solutions Group, Scheidt and Bachmann USA Inc. and Cubic Transportation Systems Inc.

DRWC Adopts the Central Delaware Waterfront Master Plan

One step closer to being officially the master plan for the Central Delaware Waterfront, the plan was unanimously adopted by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Friday and now heads to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.  Community groups praised the plan, which calls for extension of the street grid; the establishment of public spaces every half mile, linked by a waterfront trail, and mixed use development.

Landowners still fear the trails and public right of ways will amount to a public taking of private land.  They think the uncertainty the plan brings to the land's future would hamper potential development opportunities.  DRWC officials say the zoning requirements that will grow out of the plan are similar to those commonly used elsewhere, and are not problematic.


14 Trail Projects Get Approval

14 regional trail projects were approved Thursday by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Board. The commission awarded $4.5 million in grants to help design or construct the trails.  Four of the "early action" projects were approved by the board in July, bringing the total spent to $5.2 million.  The DVRPC received 37 applications totaling $18 million, a testament to the demand for increased trail access in the region.

The 14 projects approved Thursday span both Pennsylvania and New Jersey and include $260,000 for preliminary design of a trail that would cross the Schuylkill River at Grays Ferry Avenue, utilizing a currently unused bridge to connect the popular Schuylkill River trail with a smaller Grays Ferry Crescent trail.  It also provides $500,000 in design and construction money for a trail along Penn Street that would provide better access to the Delaware River.

Mixed-Use Coming to TCPC

On Tuesday a mixed-use project received approval from the Architectural Committee of the Historic Commission, that seeks to unite a diverse assortment of eight vernacular buildings that span the corners of 2nd and Arch streets. The complex once housed the Trenton China Pottery, a wholesaler of restaurant supplies and equipment, well recognized for the faded signage painted on its 2nd street side.

Committee members said their approval was contingent on keeping both the sign and a group of fire escapes on the Arch Street side.  Committee member Shawn Evans termed the painted sign as the "most charming part of the site and absolutely representative of the Old City district."  The Committee is hard pressed on demanding that the exterior envelope remain in tact and unchanged while the interior of the individual buildings are combined to form one unit.


Sustainable Housing at Sheridan Street

Interface Studio Architects (ISA) sets out to change the face of affordable housing. Sleek sustainable designs replace cookie cutter traditional, suburban semi-detached houses, and reign supreme over the 1950s high-rises that preceded them.

The 13 homes on the 1800 block Sheridan Street in North Philadelphia were built for the Associacion
 Puertorriqueños en Marcha in response to the Community Design Collaborative's 2005 Affordable infill Housing Design Challenge.  Infill Philadelphia is a design initiative by the Collaborative to revitalize neighborhoods by re-envisioning vacant buildings and spaces.

The Sheridan homes, slated for LEED Gold certification, have solar hot water, pervious pavement that allows rainwater to seep through, and green roofs, among other sustainable features.  The homes' designs are what set them apart, from materials to layout and aesthetics.  The contemporary feel will certainly increase the property values of the community and hopefully encourage developers to invest in future affordable housing.

"The defining characteristics of the project was its ridiculous dimensional constraint," says Brian Phillips, Interface Studio Principal and Collaborative board member.  The block is 450 feet long and 39 feet deep,  a very this proportion which made it challenging to design houses that would conform to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency's (PHFA) 1,300 square-feet, three bedroom, 1.5 bathroom standard requirements.  In planning the house with a low budget, ISA first looked at the performance requirements of the houses.  They then designed them to meet those requirements within the budget.  The result is six L-shaped couplets of homes that all feel like they open to the street even though some don't.  ISA is also responsible for the designs of Postgreen, a development firm with properties in Fishtown and Kensington.


Philly Housing Authority Sends 400+ Properties to Auction

Brace yourself Philly! We may be in for another residential building boom, North Philadelphia may never be the same.  On November 16, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) will put more than 400 of its surplus vacant properties on the auction block, as reported by the Inquirer.

Max Spann will auction off the properties individually and in groups, and their website has a list of available properties.  These properties are located throughout the city, but most are located in Lower North Philadelphia, consisting of vacant lots, rowhomes or multi-unit housing.

The PHA decided to send these properties to auction simply because they were part of a large unused inventory, and they felt an auction was the best way to put these properties into the hands of those who can make productive use of the and return them to the city's tax rolls.

PHA owns more than 3,000 blighted properties, a third of which the US Department of Housing and Urban Development gave PHA clearance to sell earlier this year.  In addition to the auction, the Redevelopment Authority holds listings for about 1100 PHA surplus properties.

Happy Hunting Investors!!!

List of Available Properties

Penn Excels as a Green Space Pioneer in Philadelphia

Just a month after the completion of Penn Park, The University of Pennsylvania continues to expand the growth of green public space throughout its campus, further gaining West Philly more points in the race to greening Philadelphia.  Construction of Shoemaker Green is well underway , a 2.75-acre public commons that will link the campus with Penn park, and provide space for passive recreation, study and events.


The green is taking the place of the old Lott Tennis Courts, off of 33rd Street between the Palestra, Franklin Field, and the David Rittenhouse Labs.  The constuction of the new tennis facilities in Penn Park has freed up this space, allow for a more unified and synergetic open space.

Designed by Andropogon, the site has strong sustainability features: native plantings, fewer paved surfaces, means to collect and reuse stormwater, energy-efficient lighting, local building materials, and 95% of the existing materials will be recycled.  The site was also selected to be the pilot site for the Sustainable Sites Initiative.  Construction is expected to finish in Fall 2012.

Article Via Eyes on the Street


G8 Update; 2200 Amber

G8's 2200 Amber is inching closer and closer to its Kensington debut.  Framing is up, electrical and plumbing are in, windows and doors a sealed, walls are sheet rocked and sanded, and the exterior cement board is pretty much complete.  Give her just a few more months and she'll be ready for move in.  This is exciting news for us at G8, a small development firm making a big statement and hopefully positively impacting the development of its community.  Further good news is the sale of its neighbor 2061 E. Susquehanna.  Another G8 gem, not even a day on the shelf, the home was snatched up straight off the delivery truck. This amazing rehab has taken Philadelphia row-homes to another level.  Open and unorthodox floor plans are in and G8 is the Way-To-Go!


The Future of the Festival Pier

The Festival Pier, located at the foot of Spring Garden Street on the water front, is one of the major focal points for the revitalization of the Central Delaware waterfront.  The pier currently host a long list of public events throughout the year, mostly during the spring and summer months.  But all of this is soon to change, with plans of establishing Spring Garden as a greenway from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, and increasing density around and on the pier, which will drastically change the programming and use of the site.  Increased density will certainly make this site a 365 destination anchored by residences, live work units, and entertainment.

In recent discussions, the DRWC is considering a planned linear park extending Spring Garden Street from Delaware Ave. to the River, creating a major public greenway space.  The Spring Garden park extension would encourage people to walk to the riverfront, and limit vehicular access on most of the site to emergency use only.  The public space along the water itself would not only be broad enough to keep bikers and joggers on the multi-purpose river trail separate from those enjoying the river more passively, it would allow for outdoor cafe seating.

The master plan's goals call for a mixed-use development and public open space at the Festival Pier.  The idea is that if the city creates green space and residential, retail and recreational development on the land it controls, the increased use of the waterfront will attract private land owners and developers to revitalize the rest of the Central Delaware.