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
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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.
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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.