1900 Arch Project Checks in to Center City Apartment Boom

Over the next few years we can expect to see over 700 new apartments in the Logan Square and Center City West neighborhoods.  A construction boom that is long over due, with all the vacant lots on this side of town the neighborhoods can use a boost to foot traffic.  We hope to see also an increase of commercial retail and restaurants in this area. An additional 700 to 1000 residents will surely need an additional grocery store, restaurants, and hopefully a new retail district, if the ACC building ever gets off the ground.  Even without the Liberty Property Trust development, this neighborhood has a lot of potential.

As reported about a month ago the fourteen story, mixed use building designed by Varenhorst Architects, will have 236 apartments, a restaurant, additional commercial and retail space, 131 underground parking spaces, and 79 bicycle parking spaces.  the building is certainly ready for the eco-friendly city dweller, two blocks from major public transit, a grocery store, retail and entertainment.


2040 Market Gets New Lease on Life

The former AAA mid-Atlantic headquarters is finally getting second chance, and staking a place in the 21st Century. Ushering in new life to the often barren West Market Street, 8 additional floors will be added to the original 2040 Market building, bringing it to 13 floors.  Two additional 13 story wings will be added to the back of the building, along Ludlow Street.

Designed by Steven Varenhorst Architects, the building will have 275 high-end rental apartments, 32 of which will be two bedroom apartments, at the request of Center City Residents Association, increasing the size of the building from 120,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet.  The facade of the original building will be clad with panels that will create bunches of windows, rather than the seamless ribbon of windows it currently has.  All parking will be underground, some of it within the existing building and some under the new additions.  There will be two entrances to the parking, one on Ludlow and the other unfortunately on Market.

The retail in the building will be on the corners, replacing the existing wall with a series of bay windows and alcoves on 21st and Market Streets.  There will be at least one large restaurant, making the alcoves perfect for outdoor dining.  The retail space could also suit a furniture store or car showroom.  There will also be a small courtyard on Ludlow Street.

Robert Morris Building

The Rober Morris Building, named after the founding father and early American businessman, Robert Morris, will be converted into upscale apartments by 806 Capital, with financing from PNC Bank and Federal Capital Partners, of Washington, D.C.  The building was formerly planned to become a hotel but fell through due to the recession.

The 14 story building will be converted into 11 luxury apartments, which have had strong demand in Center City.  The building will also have a gym and media center.  There will be retail on the first floor, but it hasn't been determined what will go there.  This building is one of about half a dozen projects on this stretch of Arch street that will add new retail, possibly making Arch street another restaurant row or major shopping street in Center City.  Renovations will likely be complete some time next year.


Brandywine Realty Explores New Financing Possibilities

The Radnor real estate investment trust entered into binding agreement for commitments on a new $600 million credit facility and another $600 million of unsecured loans.  The transaction is scheduled to close by Feb.1.

At the closing of those loans, Brandywine will retire an existing $600 million unsecured revolving credit facility and another $183 million term loan, both scheduled to mature on June 29.  Nit will have no significant debt maturities until November 2014.

The company called the $1.2 billion in new bank financing "transformative."  Brandywine said it allows the company to not only have no debt maturities in the near future, but also to "execute our business plan objectives."  The funds position Brandywine to possibly fund new construction projects it has in the works for Philadelphia; an apartment building at 1919 Market St., another is a rumored student housing complex on one of the Cira sites in and around 30th Street Station.

University of the Sciences; University Place

The Developers of 2.0 University Place has landed a tenant big enough to kick off a $30 million office building at 30 N. 41st Street in West Philadelphia.  The project has been put on the back-burner for over three years, and finally is getting some juice to finish off the expanding campus of the University of the Sciences.

University Place Associates will break ground in December on a five-story, 97,000-square-foot building and serve as something seldom seen in the city, even on a small scale, new office construction.  Because the site is designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone, the University can take advantage of breaks on state and local taxes after moving into the space.  However the buildings main tenant, a General Services Administration agency called Citizenship and Immigration Services, is tax exempt because of its government status.  Other tenants will get those tax benefits until 2018.


Transit Oriented Development in East Kensington and Washington Ave.

Next year the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will study the future of transportation along major corridors in two changing neighborhoods.  Two Transportation and Community Development Initiative grants awarded to the PCPC by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will fund a look at South Philadelphia's Washington Avenue and an exploration of the areas around three stops of the Market-Frankford El in East Kensington.

The Eastern portion of Washington Avenue is home to many large-scale businesses with big parking lots including several busy Asian grocery stores and restaurants.  Due to development pressure for the western portion to put retail and commercial strip developments, the planning commission want to see if there are better solutions.  Following reviews with various business groups and city organizations, recommendations might include adding additional public transportation.

The results of the study will help inform the district-level comprehensive plan for Center City.  The district-level plans are part of the city's master planning process.  The city-wide plan is already in place, and more detailed looks at groups of similar neighborhoods will complete the plan.

Transit-oriented development is development within walking distance of public transportation, so that people who live, work or shop there are mostly coming and going without cars.

City Council Creates NID in Callowhill

Callowhill and Chinatown North residents who were hoping to create a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) to help pay for blight removal, street lighting, and other improvements finally got their wish, granted by City Council.  More than half the property owners in the proposed district – bounded loosely by Broad, Spring Garden, Vine and 8th streets – had opposed creating the district, according to votes tallied by the offices of Councilman Frank DiCicco and the City Clerk.  On Thursday, City Council unanimously voted to pass the legislation anyway.

Petition signatures still have to be verified in order for the NID to be official.  Many residents don't want to see their taxes increased.  If the NID were created, property owners would have to pay an extra tax for the services the District would provide.

The NID had some support from the Nutter administration.  In September, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger testified before City Council, saying that creation of a NID is "one element of an overall strategy to manage and plan for growth" in the neighborhood.

The potential death of the NID legislation clouds the future of a proposed park on the Reading Viaduct.  An early version of the NID legislation proposed creating that park, Though the provision was later removed, in part because it had no support from the city.  Specific plans for the Viaduct stretching from Vine street to Fairmount Ave were never settled on, but many community members continue to pursue the project.


Hagert St. Development; Fishtown

Naked Philly repots on future development at the giant fortified vacant lot at the corner of E Hagert & Gaul Streets in Fishtown.  Hagert Square Inc purchased the nearly one acre property a month ago for $800K, with plans to construct 30 homes.  The layout will be much similar to a neighboring development on York and Gaul, except larger and with 2 car parking spaces, but less homes.

Photo's via Naked Philly

The two story homes will have 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, basements, and roof decks.  Square footage should be in the range of 1600-1800 sqft, not including sub- basement space.  The neighborhood should certainly welcome development such as this, especially when there a still plenty of vacant lots to be filled, and a rising local economy to support with new residents.


Rivage at East Falls Grants Developer Contract

The Rivage property near Kelly Drive in East Falls has finally chosen a developer for the site.  A sure sign that soon we will see a quite sustainably handsome neighbor to the Falls Bridge and sunoco gas station across the street.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has selected Northern Liberties-based Onion Flats to redevelop the site.  It's called The Ridge, and features 126 residential units, 8,700 square feet of retail space and an ambitious energy and sustainability plan, with a striking design meant to create a sense of unity and community with the nearby Schuylkill riverfront.  This would be the largest residential development for Onion Flats, known for the Rag Flats and Thin Flats projects.

The redevelopment board selected Onion Flats at it meeting Monday, and officials praised the plan as a groundbreaking concept that will introduce a focus on lifestyles both transit- and environmentally-friendly. Onion Flats now has until June to enter into a full redevelopment agreement, which will include a final sales price for the city-owned property.  Construction could begin in early 2013, with completion in spring 2014.

All energy for utilities including heating, cooling, light and home hot water will be generated on site, with green roofs and a solar panel array.  The plan is pointedly geared against the car-dependent:  There are fewer parking spaces than housing units, but indoor bike storage for every resident, along with electric vehicle charging ports and spaces for Zip Cars.  Along Kelly Drive, a public terrace space is designed to draw walkers, bikers and other foot traffic up into the neighborhood.

The Pennsylvania Ballet

The Pennsylvania Ballet plans to create a $17.5 million dance center on North Broad Street.  The project has broken ground on a complex of five dance studios, school and offices signaling another step forward for the revival of North Broad Street.  The project was greeted with open arms by the city and arts community.  However The project includes the demolition of a building at 325 N. Broad that is listed on the national Register of Historic Places, and the preservation community is not joining in the applause for the project.

Designed by Erdy McHenry Architecture, the dance company will be designed with an open courtyard with trees at 325 N. Broad and renovation of the building 331.  The Ballet has raised $11.2 million so far, the city is contributing $1 million through its Cultural Corridors Fund, and the state is providing $2.5 million through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The facade of 331 will be preserved and the building will be kept intact and renovated for office space.  The garage buildings at the rear of the site will become rehearsal studios, a green roof will be installed on one of those buildings and clear glass upper stories will eventually be added.  The only building being removed is 325 N. Broad due to poor condition.