Hard Hat Tour: East Market’s First Building

The future home of the area's second, and Center City's first, MOM's Organic Market is almost complete. | Photos: Sandy Smith except where indicated

The future home of the area’s second, and Center City’s first, MOM’s Organic Market is almost complete. | Photos: Sandy Smith except where indicated

MOM is getting ready to welcome her neighbors to East Market come this fall.

That’s MOM as in “MOM’s Organic Market,” the first tenant signed for the mixed-use development that will, when complete, occupy the entire block bounded by 11th, 12th, Market and Chestnut streets. Its space on the street level of 34 S. 11th St. is closing in on completion, and work is well under way on getting the insides of the building ready for two more tenants, including a new one developer National Real Estate Development (NRED) announced yesterday (July 13): Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ), a national architectural firm with Pennsylvania roots whose Philadelphia office is currently at 123 South Broad.

NRED used the occasion of the BCJ announcement to invite the media in to take a look around and see how construction is progressing on the first building to be completed as part of the multiphase project. The building, which was once an annex of Snellenburg’s department store and was most recently home to the Philadelphia Family Court, has been given a Modernist factory-like treatment by project architect BLT Architects. Read more »

Homes for Sale Coming to King of Prussia

So they're wood, stucco and brick rather than brown stone, but the Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge will let homeowners stake a claim on the new, more walkable King of Prussia. | Rendering courtesy Toll Brothers

Even though they’re made of tan siding, brown brick and cream rather than brown stone, the Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge will let homeowners in on the action in the new, more walkable King of Prussia. | Rendering courtesy Toll Brothers

It’s the dream of more than a few urbanites I know to live right next door to a Wegmans. Even better: owning their own place next door to one. Starting early next year, these people will be able to get their heart’s desire courtesy Toll Brothers City Living, which broke ground this month on the first buildings of a 132-unit condominium development.

All they’ll have to do is move to King of Prussia.

The Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge, as Toll is calling it, is the first for-sale residential development in King of Prussia in many years and the only one that will be in the middle of what’s shaping up to be its first truly walkable mixed-use community. That’s right: living next door to a Wegmans here means you step out your door and walk over to the store, no driving involved.

And if you happen to be employed at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s new clinic in K of P, you’ll have it made in the shade, for it’s a very short walk in the opposite direction.

Plus, said Toll Brothers City Living Division President Brian Emmons, “all the cool shops are just a few minutes away.”

The Brownstones will be similar in plan to the 2400 South condominium Toll built in Graduate Hospital’s western reaches two years ago: each four-story building will contain two three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath condominium units. The lower units will offer optional basements, while the upper ones introduce something new to King of Prussia: optional roof decks. All of the units will have outdoor living space in the form of rear balconies.

Work on the first six units, including the two sales models, is now under way; Emmons said Toll Brothers expects to complete these units by October, when the development will go on the market. Work on the next 18 units should begin by then and be complete by early 2017, with more units coming on line as the project progresses.

The Brownstones is one more piece in the larger plan spearheaded by the King of Prussia District to introduce more walkable urban environments into the mix of uses in the Philadelphia region’s largest edge city.

In Nicetown, A Green Building Celebration

YouthBuild students (in dark green T-shirts) join (left to right) City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, City Councilman Derek Green, Nicetown Community Development Corporation Executive Director Majeedah Rashid, YouthBuild USA Founder and President [tk] and City Councilman Alan Domb in cutting the first of two ceremonial ribbons at 2006-08 Wingohocking Street, one for each house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

YouthBuild students (in dark green T-shirts) join (left to right) City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, City Councilman Derek Green, Nicetown Community Development Corporation Executive Director Majeedah Rashid, YouthBuild USA Founder and President Dorothy Stoneman and City Councilman Alan Domb in cutting the first of two ceremonial ribbons at 2006-08 Wingohocking Street, one for each house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

The future of green building, clad in yellow vinyl siding, took center stage on a street just a stone’s throw from Wayne Junction Regional Rail station in Nicetown this afternoon.

The occasion was the formal ribbon-cutting for the nearly-complete rehabilitation of 2006-08 W. Wingohocking Street, two formerly abandoned homes that are being rehabbed by YouthBuild Charter High School students under the auspices of the Nicetown Community Development Corporation.

The work is being performed by students in the Green Building and Advanced Construction courses at the school along with employees of Malvern-based Saint-Gobain USA and its principal U.S. subsidiary, CertainTeed. CertainTeed also donated the materials being used in the rehabilitation project. Read more »

Yards Brewing Plans to Move Closer to Center City

A conceptual rendering of the taproom at the proposed Yards Brewing Company brewpub. | Rendering by Digsau, courtesy Alliance HSB

A conceptual rendering of the taproom at the proposed Yards Brewing Company brewpub. | Rendering by Digsau via Alliance | HSB

The planned SoNo development, which was to have converted the former Destination Maternity headquarters in the 500 block of Spring Garden Street in Northern Liberties to creative office space, has found its anchor tenant.

That would be Yards Brewing Company, a local success story whose founder and president, Tom Kehoe, has been a big booster of efforts to promote manufacturing in the city.

The brewery is bumping up against the limits of its current space on Delaware Avenue along the waterfront, and the SoNo building offers the space they need not only for an expanding brewery but also for a brewpub that both Yards and building owners Alliance | HSP see as a catalyst for enlivening a dead stretch of Spring Garden Street. Read more »

Our Odds on the 30th Street Station Area Development Plan

30th Street Station development plan, aerial view

The 30th Street Station area master plan laid out a fantastic vision of a second downtown for Philadelphia in University City. Only money stands in the way of realizing it, with the public sector as the weakest link. | Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

$6.5 billion.

The figure was tossed out rather casually in the course of yesterday’s formal unveiling of the two-years-in-the-making master development plan for the area surrounding 30th Street Station in University City, but it represents the largest single bet yet placed on the future of Philadelphia.

The parties involved — Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, PennDOT, SEPTA, and a slew of elected officials and community groups — have put their chips down on a project that has many moving parts and will play out over the course of decades.

As we’ve seen plans almost as ambitious as this one go up in smoke (anyone here remember River City?), it’s only logical that we should ask what its chances for completion are. Herewith are my own odds for the plan’s key components and the overall chances that the plan will be fully realized sometime in our or our children’s lifetimes. Read more »

30th Street Station Development Plans Announced

 

A renedering of what the area around 30th Street Station would look like when all the projects envisioned in the development plan are completed. | Renderings by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

This morning, Amtrak, SEPTA and Drexel University officials unveiled plans for a massive transformation of the area around 30th Street Station.

The massive, multi-decade 30th Street Station District Plan would, when completed, turn the area around 30th Street Station into a second downtown for Philadelphia focused on the second-busiest station in the Amtrak system. That station, transformed into a multimodal transportation hub for the region, would serve as the linchpin of the planned development.

New office, retail and residential buildings containing 18 million square feet of total space and 40 acres of open space would be created under the plan, with most of the development privately financed. A total of $2 billion in public investment would leverage an additional $4.5 billion in private investment. These figures are on top of the $3.5 billion Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust have already pledged to see the Schuylkill Yards development, which Drexel President John Fry described as “a down payment” on the plan at this morning’s public unveiling, to completion. Read more »

Cambria Hotel Breaks Ground Before It’s Ground

You can't stick a shovel into a steel plate, but there were shovels all the same at today's ceremonial groundbreaking. The participants: Top row, left to right: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Wunderling, DAS Architects Principal David Schultz, Pearl Properties Principal Jim Pearlstein, Choice Hotels Chief Development Officer David Pepper. Bottom row, left to right: DAS Architects Principal Sue Davidson, Visit Philadelphia CEO Meryl Levitz, Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, Pearl Properties Principal Reed Slogoff, Choice Hotels Senior Vice President for Upscale Brands Janice Camron, Choice Hotels Director of Development Guy Gridley. |Photo: Sandy Smith

You can’t stick a shovel into a steel plate, but there were shovels all the same at today’s ceremonial groundbreaking. The participants: Top row, left to right: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Wonderling, DAS Architects Principal David Schultz, Pearl Properties Principal Jim Pearlstein, Choice Hotels Chief Development Officer David Pepper. Bottom row, left to right: DAS Architects Principal Sue Davidson, Visit Philadelphia CEO Meryl Levitz, Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, Pearl Properties Principal Reed Slogoff, Choice Hotels Senior Vice President for Upscale Brands Janis Cannon, Choice Hotels Director of Development Guy Gridley. |Photos: Sandy Smith

No actual ground was broken in this morning’s ceremony at the site of the future Cambria Hotel and Suites on the Avenue of the Arts, but it was a groundbreaking event all the same.

Groundbreaking because it marks Cambria parent Choice Hotels’ first venture into the upper end of the Center City Philadelphia market. Its closest previous foray, a mid-range Comfort Inn at Penn’s Landing, changed hands several years ago and is now a Holiday Inn Express. (There are also two franchised Choice affiliates catering to the budget traveler in Center City: a Sleep Inn on Race Street in Chinatown and a Rodeway Inn on Walnut Street in Washington Square West’s Midtown Village/Gayborhood section.)

Choice Hotels executives, the hotel’s developer and its architect, and representatives of the city’s tourism promotion machine all turned out this morning to celebrate the hotel’s impending construction and welcome Choice back into the thick of things. Read more »

Free Land in Francsiville for Builders Who Will Sell for Less

This vacant lot in the 1900 block of Brown Street is one of eight the city's Land Bank is offering free to developers, in the process advancing Council President Darrell Clarke's workforce housing initiative. | Google Maps image

This vacant lot in the 1900 block of Brown Street is one of eight the city’s Land Bank is offering free to developers, in the process advancing Council President Darrell Clarke’s workforce housing initiative. | Google Maps image

Philadelphia’s Land Bank is continuing its slow march to functionality.

On Wednesday, the Land Bank released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for eight vacant properties near 19th and Brown streets in Francisville. It’s the first of several RFPs for “workforce housing” the Land Bank plans to send out this year, according to a press release.

The land would be given away for free or at a nominal cost to developers who will build houses and sell them for no more than $230,000 apiece. Buyers could make no more than 120 percent of Area Median Income, which is around $96,000 for a family of four. The average home sale price in Francisville is $325,000, according to the press release. Read more »

Toll Drops Plans for Society Hill Playhouse Site

The apartment buildings Toll Brothers said would replace the condos it had planned to build on 8th Street above South won't happen either. | Rendering: JKRP Architects via Toll Brothers

The apartment buildings Toll Brothers said would replace the condos it had planned to build on 8th Street above South won’t happen either. | Rendering: JKRP Architects via Toll Brothers

First, it was condominiums. Then, rental apartments. Now, nothing.

Toll Brothers has dropped plans to build apartment buildings on two plots of land it owns in Washington Square West. The lots, which face each other across 8th Street, currently house the former Society Hill Playhouse and a parking garage.

After testy negotiations with near neighbors caused Toll Brothers to drop its original plans to build condominiums on the two parcels, the company announced that it would build two apartment buildings by right instead. Now those plans have been scuttled.

Toll Brothers City Living Division Vice President Brian Emmons declined further comment when we asked for details about the decision or any possible plans for the sites.

A Preview of the New 2400 Market

The latest version of 2400 Market Street. | Rendering: Varenhorst/Gensler via Philadelphia City Planning Commission

The latest version of 2400 Market Street. | Renderings: Varenhorst/Gensler via Philadelphia City Planning Commission

We knew that what PMC Property Group had planned to put on top of the former Marketplace Design Center was not going to be a simple tower slab.

What we hadn’t expected was that it would be this interesting visually.

The final design Varenhorst and Gensler Philadelphia submitted to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for Civic Design Review is a little more restrained than the fairly restrained preliminary one, but both are still an improvement over the taller conceptual design PMC released when it first announced the project. Read more »

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