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 »

Ground Broken for New Apartments in Chalfont

Second Empire once removed: The design of the new Patriot Station at Chalfont could be a kissing cousin of Philadelphia City Hall. | Rendering: Courtesy J.G. Petrucci Company

Second Empire once removed: The design of the new Patriot Station at Chalfont could be a kissing cousin of Philadelphia City Hall. | Rendering: Courtesy J.G. Petrucci Company

Chalfont’s historic town center is about to get its first new building in several years. When it’s finished, however, it will be hard to distinguish from the ones that have been standing since the mid- to late 19th century.

That’s because Patriot Station at Chalfont, for which ground was broken yesterday (May 23rd), is designed to match the Victorian architecture of many Chalfont buildings, including the one it’s replacing. Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: The View of 500 Walnut

Architects attending last weekend's AIA convention get a hard hat tour at one remove of the 500 Walnut construction site. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Architects attending last weekend’s AIA convention get a hard hat tour at one remove of the 500 Walnut construction site. | Photos: Sandy Smith

There’s luxury high-rise living, and then there’s luxury high-rise living.

The first kind offers you space where the builder has done the heavy lifting and lets you outfit it from a range of high-end accoutrements; you can supply the interior designer to give it some of your own personality.

Tom Scannapieco specializes in the second kind, the kind where you shape the entire space from the layout to the details to suit your desires. This style of development has redefined the upper end of the luxury market in Philadelphia, and last Thursday, he explained how he raised the bar to a group of architects in town for the American Institute of Architects convention, who also got to see his latest ultra-luxury project as it rises from the ground. Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: The View From Vue32

Architect's rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Architect’s rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Ground was ceremonially broken one week ago for Vue32, the new apartment tower Radnor Property Group (RPG) is building and will manage for Drexel University at 32nd and Race streets. But a recent hard-hat tour of the site reveals that work on the foundation and substructure is well under way.

RPG President David Yeager led us on a hard-hat tour of the construction site and explained why the slender 16-story tower looks the way it does and how all the pieces of the project, which also includes a row of townhouses, fell into place.

Yeager worked with Drexel President John Fry on a series of redevelopment projects on and around the Franklin & Marshall College campus in Lancaster, and now that he’s back in Philly, Fry has turned to Yeager and his company again to help him carry out Drexel’s master campus plan. The Vue32 project advances two key elements of it: reducing the pressure on off-campus housing in Powelton Village by providing more apartments for members of the Drexel community and promoting homeownership by Drexel faculty and staff in the neighborhood as well. Read more »

Report: Blatstein Offered $18 Million for Vacant Lot at Broad & Washington

The vacant lot on the northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

The vacant lot on the northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

Developer Bart Blatstein agreed to pay $18 million for a vacant lot at the corner of Broad & Washington under a contract with the property’s owner that’s now in question, according to a report in the Inquirer this morning.

Blatstein and representatives of N/H Philadelphia Properties, a New York-based real estate investment firm that owns the lot, met in court on Tuesday. The owner is seeking to send Blatstein on his way empty-handed, claiming that the agreement of sale expired on May 15. Blatstein, who got approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to build a 32-story apartment tower and rooftop retail village on the site Tuesday, still believes he’ll be able to build his project.

$18 million for a vacant lot, y’all. Though the property is assessed at $5.2 million, the owners say they’ve already received offers that exceed $18 million from other parties. Blatstein’s lawyers said that the owners are trying to cut off Blatstein while exploiting the process he went through to get additional zoning approvals on the property, according to the Inquirer.

Lawyer: Blatstein Doesn’t Own Broad & Washington, Can’t Seek Zoning Approval

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington | Photo via Google Street View

A lawyer for N/H Philadelphia Properties, the New York real estate company that owns the long-vacant lot at the corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly’s Hawthorne section, has sent a letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment saying that developer Bart Blatstein has no legal right to the property and asking the board to hold its decision on the zoning approvals Blatstein is seeking for 30 more days.

For two years, Blatstein’s development company, Tower Investments, has been pursuing a project at the corner involving a 32-story apartment tower and a rooftop retail village. The zoning board heard his application for special exceptions last month, but opted to hold its decision for two weeks. It later voted to approve the project, then decided to vacate that vote because two weeks hadn’t passed. At a meeting last week, when the board was scheduled to take its final vote, two board members were absent and no vote took place. Read more »

How 1213 Walnut Will Play Nice With Fergie’s

1213 Walnut, Sansom elevation

This rendering of the Sansom Street elevation of 1213 Walnut Street was produced on April 12 by the Design Collective.

Ever since it was first announced by its previous developer, it’s been known that the mixed-use apartment/retail building now rising at 1213 Walnut St., popularly known as the “Fergie Tower,” will envelop the two-story Fergie’s Pub building on Sansom Street.

But up until now, we haven’t seen just how the building will envelop it. Previous project architect TEN Arquitectos, which U3 Ventures had chosen to design the tower it proposed to build, never released to the public renderings of the Sansom Street side of the building.

We now have them, courtesy the Design Collective, the Baltimore-based architect co-developers Hines, the Goldenberg Group and ASB Real Estate Investments chose to design the project they rescuscitated when delays due to opposition from Fergie’s and near neighbors, and then the Great Recession, prevented U3 from proceeding. Read more »

The Divine Lorraine, Getting Ready For Its Closeup

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a "check-in counter" for today's open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a “check-in counter” for today’s open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Around the turn of the last century, when the four buildings developer Eric Blumenfeld is in the process of reconstructing were built, North Broad Street was the address of choice for Philadelphia’s new money. The streetcar magnates and captains of industry who built mansions along this street staked it out after the city’s old-money Establishment around Rittenhouse Square shunned them.

The mansions have all vanished from the scene, but today, North Broad Street is witnessing another influx of new money, this time in the form of millions of dollars being invested in its redevelopment as a live/work/play environment. Four buildings, all owned by Blumenfeld, are serving as the linchpins of that transformation, building on his earlier success with conversion of a factory to loft apartments and a former car dealership into restaurants and a catering hall.

Blumenfeld, his chief financier William Procida of Procida Funding and Advisors, and commercial real estate agents Dominique Casimir and Jackie Balin of CBRE Fameco led a group of about 20 interested parties and two reporters on a tour of the four buildings this morning. Read more »

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