Long-Shuttered Department Store Will Finally Reopen

Castor and Cottman

Photo (and gallery below) by the author.

In 2003, the JCPenney on the corner of Castor and Cottman in Northeast Philadelphia shut its doors. I was in seventh grade at the time and, suffice to say, didn’t really think much beyond Wonder what they’ll put there next … oh my god, I hope it’s, like, a restaurant or something. What ended up going there was … nothing.

Wait, what?

Naïve? Yeah, probably. But up until that point whatever vacant buildings were in the area had been there for so long that they were just part of the streetscape. The norm. This closing was something else. Because here’s what happened: the neighborhood felt more dead than usual.

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Morning Headlines: Is Bridesburg Really Getting A Waterfront Park?

Well here’s something to smile about! A waterfront park with access to Orthodox Street is coming to Bridesburg, a neighborhood which for too long has missed out on the possibilities offered along the nearby Delaware River bank. The news comes from a joint effort between PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey and Hidden City’s Bradley Maule to examine and report on new developments alongside the North Delaware Riverfront.

Apparently, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) have “nine acres of new waterfront parkland,” which it plans to develop despite there being no financial backing or design just yet. Tom Branigan, director of DRCC, told PlanPhilly that funding would most likely come from city and grant funds.

The land was previously under the hand of the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID) who emphasized its industrial use (it’s the site of the Philadelphia Coke Co.) when trying to attract buyers, but which, ultimately, resulted in unhappy residents. From PlanPhilly:

“Bridesburg has been cut off from the river for I don’t know how long, probably more than 100 years,” said Tom Branigan, director of DRCC, in an interview with PlanPhilly. “They’ve been looking for park space with access to the river for some time.”

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Rodin Square Development Breaks Ground

Rodin Square Whole Foods Rendering

Rodin Square broke ground this morning. The massive development includes a 55,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market at 501 N. 22nd Street (directly in view of the Ben Franklin Parkway) and a 10-story, 293-unit, luxury apartment complex called The Dalian on Fairmount.

Dalian Development and International Financial Company, the developers behind the $160 million mixed-use project, say the Whole Foods, which will include a 5,000 square foot café and a two-story glass façade, won’t be the only retailer on the premises.

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Morning Headlines: NIMBY Drama Stirs Up Between Residents and Swarthmore College

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Three things are set to happen once construction ends on the new development Swarthmore College has commissioned: First, more books will be available; second, the borough will get its first liquor license; third, Route 320 (Chester Road) will see a shift in traffic flow. Two of these are unwelcome changes for some Swarthmore residents.

As the Inquirer’s Laura McCrystal reports, an inn, bookstore, and roundabout are going to to be constructed in the area, the latter development starting this week. Hopes for the roundabout, which is planned for the intersection of Chester Road and Rutgers Avenue, include it “improv[ing] a dangerous intersection and connect[ing] the college to its community.”

However, opponents of the roundabout see it a different way: Read more »

Commission Approves Digital Signage on Market Street

A new rendering of 205 Race Street, courtesy of the developers.

The city’s Historical Commission has given the go-ahead to three landscape-changing projects in the area: signage for the Market Street side of the former Strawbridge & Clothier, the 205 Race Street development, and an addition to the former Warner Brothers Film Distribution Center.

In terms of 801 Market Street, PlanPhilly reports the Commission voted in favor of  “exterior marquee, awnings, banner signs, and lighting on the Market Street façade of the western half of the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store building.”

The lengthy going-back-to-the-drawing-board cycle for 205 Race has ended with the Commission’s approval of its most recent design. Construction on the mixed-use property, which will include 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and basement parking, is one step closer to reality.

The tower addition for the former Warner Bros. building on 13th and Florist also passed muster, following the Architectural Committee’s July recommendation for its approval — provided developers hew to five conditions. From PlanPhilly:

1. Details of the panel system, glazing, canopy, parapet wall, garage door, and fence are submitted;
2. Color samples of cladding materials for the addition in relation to the historic materials are submitted;
3. It is confirmed that the roof of the historic building will not be occupied;
4. Designs of any railings to installed on the roof of the historic building for occupancy are submitted; and,
5. The locations and configurations of all HVAC equipment are submitted.

• Historical Commission approves Warner Bros. building redo; 205 Race St. construction and 801 Market signage [PlanPhilly]

8th and Filbert May Look Like Crap Now…

Here’s a rendering from the Philadelphia Parking Authority of its vision for the future of 8th and Filbert. See the happy tourist taking photos? That person is noticeably absent in today’s dystopia.

Before/after image via PPA.

Before/after image via PPA.

Ah, we kid, we kid. Below, a slideshow of the entire transformation to come.

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Morning Headlines: More Info On Planned W / Element Hotels Coming Next Week

Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

1441 Chestnut. Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the developers of the planned W and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut (currently a parking lot) don’t need zoning variances to build their project. For this reason, their meeting with the Center City Residents Association next week, where they will present their new designs, will be for informational purposes only.

Here’s what to expect of the double tower:

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED Certification for the building.

Lenfest, if you recall, caused waves last year when he requested (and got) $33 million in tax breaks for the project.

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Post Bros.’ Goldtex Building Gets a “Neighborhood Tavern”

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

According to Zagat as reported in Foobooz, the Goldtex apartment building’s ground floor will soon be getting a restaurant. Mike Welsh, formerly of Franklin Mortgage and Lemon Hill, will open Brick & Mortar — “a neighborhood American tavern” — sometime in November in what’s currently 3,500 square feet of raw space.

One issue with Goldtex has been its location–what people call, variously, the Loft District, Eraserhood, or Chinatown-ish–Philadephians have a hard time seeing that area as warm and neighborhoody. But it sounds, from Welsh’s talk with Danya Henninger for Zagat, that the restaurant/bar’s vibe hopes to change that:

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Huzzah! Pier 53 Is Officially Washington Avenue Pier

Photo by Douglas Bovitt courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

Photo by Douglas Bovitt courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

Today was the formal opening of the Washington Avenue Pier, which you may remember — from yesterday — as Pier 53. Part of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, the Pier Formerly Known As 53 is now a very lovely and educational park, with pretty incredible views, from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman Bridge, and from Philadelphia to New Jersey. And, of course, the mighty Delaware River.

The photos below show the variety of seating, educational components, boardwalk, and natural habitats designed and built by Applied Ecological Services and Neshaminy Contractors. You’ll also see photos of “Land Buoy” by artist Jody Pinto (best known round these parts for “Fingerspan” in the Wissahickon), whose family has a fascinating story related to the pier, which was once an immigration station.

Gallery below.

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Law Firm: Divine Lorraine Developer Eric Blumenfeld Owes Us Nearly $750K

divine-lorraine-940x540

A law firm alleges that Eric Blumenfeld owes $120,000 for services rendered in relation to his development of the Divine Lorraine, pictured above in a rendering commissioned by his company.

Update: 8/15/14 3:35PM: Blumenfeld called us yesterday evening to say, “That matter has been resolved.” Today a firm spokesperson told us, “Stradley Ronon Chairman Bill Sasso and Eric Blumenfeld have reached a verbal settlement on the matter that will be committed to writing in the very near future.”

The law firm of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP has filed a suit (embedded below) against Eric Blumenfeld’s EB Realty Management Corp. The complaint alleges that Blumenfeld hired the firm in March 2012 to advise him in various real estate matters, including the Abbotts Square condo complex; the Stutz Building, where Stephen Starr’s catering empire resides; and the following development projects:

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