A Face-Saving Gesture for the Royal Theater

The South Street facade of the planned residential-retail development. | Rendering: JKRP Architects

The South Street facade of the planned residential-retail development. | Renderings: JKRP Architects

We now know what the residential project that will rise behind the front wall of the Royal Theater in the 1600 block of South Street will look like.

That’s because the site’s owner, Sarasota, Fla.-based developer and medical research backer Robert Roskamp is ready to proceed with the project, which hews closely to plans developer Carl Dranoff had been discussing with Universal Companies head Kenny Gamble last summer.

According to a news report on Philly.com today, the project, which will go before Civic Design Review tomorrow (Tuesday, May 2nd), will consist of 57 apartments in a six-story structure to be built behind the South Street theater’s facade plus seven three-story townhouses at the rear of the theater site, fronting on Kater Street. Read more »

Renderings: What South Street’s Historic Royal Theater May Soon Look Like


As mentioned earlier this morning, PMC Property Group’s proposed 10-story building in Old City isn’t the only big project the city’s Architectural Committee will be reviewing tomorrow. There are several more to be sure, but the only other one with this much–perhaps more–power to tweak the fabric of a neighborhood is Dranoff Properties’ planned Royal Theater redevelopment, which would see everything but the building’s façade razed to make way for a mixed-use development with luxury housing and below-grade parking.

According to Hidden City’s Michael Bixler, the latest plan for the historic structure involves 40 luxury residential units, below-grade garage with 20 parking spaces, and 7,000 square feet of commercial space. Presenting before the Committee will be Dranoff Properties and Universal Community Homes, the latter of who Bixler reports will also go before the Committee of Financial Hardship on June 30th to try to “circumvent the legal protections of the local [historical] register.”

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Preservation Wire: It Looks Like the Boyd Theatre’s Art Deco Lobby Will Stay


Last week, we put you on to some interesting notices on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street in what could be the next step towards a 26-story tower developed by Pearl Properties. Orange demolition stickers were physically hung on 1902 and 1904 Chestnut Street, meaning those entire buildings are going to come down. Permits filed for the Boyd Theatre weren’t necessarily as clear. Sure, demolition was going to take place at the former movie palace, but to what extent?

PlanPhilly’s Ashley Hahn unearthed some site plans for the demolition (seen here), which look to show some good news in terms of preserving at least some of the history of the building: Read more »

Developer to Submit Demolition Application for Royal Theater This Spring


Following a December approval from the zoning board, Dranoff Properties can now take the next step in its plan to redevelop the historic Royal Theater on South Street into a new mixed-use space, which would retain the original structure’s facade.

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni, the developer is expected to submit a demolition application to the Philadelphia Historical Commission this spring. The demo, which would be restricted to the rear portion of the property, will make way for new rental units and retail space that the South of South Neighborhood Association and other residents sees as a revitalizing new component to the area…

Council Committee Approves Zoning Changes For Royal Theater Redevelopment


Hopefully, that annoying Lorde song isn’t playing in your head now like it is in mine, but big news regarding the Royal Theater’s redevelopment was reported by CBS Philly a little bit ago: A City Council committee has approved requested zoning changes that would allow developer Carl Dranoff to demolish the building (but keep its exterior) and replace it with a mixed-use building.

Peter Kelsen, Dranoff’s attorney, was at the hearing and had this to say:

“The Royal Theater development promises to be a game-changing development on South Street,” Kelsen said.  “We will create an adaptive reuse of this historic property, which will reinvigorate this important block of South Street.”

Meanwhile, some locals expressed disappointment because of the potential height and parking issues the Royal’s proposed replacement would create:  Read more »

The Royal Theater Is Getting Closer to a Proposed Redevelopment Project


There’s still a long way to go, but Carl Dranoff’s redevelopment plans for the Royal Theater are forging ahead.

Dranoff, if you recall, has been seeking legislative rezoning in order to demolish the historic property and build a new mixed-use structure in its place: a 50-foot tall building with 45 “high-end” rental units, 7,600 square feet of commercial space and a green roof. The Royal’s exterior would be the only original feature kept on Dranoff’s new building.

Now, PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has introduced a bill that would allow Dranoff to build his proposed project with additional density along 15th, 16th, South, and Kater streets.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Redevelopment Plans for the Royal Theater


It took about a year, but developer Carl Dranoff and JDavis Architects unveiled plans for the vacant Royal Theater at a South of South Neighborhood Association meeting last week. PlanPhilly has the details this morning.

Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies purchased the historic building in 2000 but it has been mightily neglected since then. Dranoff partnered with Universal last year when the group announced plans for a mixed-use building to replace the theater. Details on the proposed building were fuzzy until last week’s meeting. Thanks to PlanPhilly, we now know the proposal includes the following provisions.

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Might Something Else Be Afoot at the Royal?

symphony houseJudging from the presence not only of Kenny Gamble, founder and CEO of Universal Companies, but also of his negotiating team at Tuesday’s formal unveiling of Dranoff Properties’ SLS International Hotel and Residences project, the record exec-turned-community developer and the master developer continue to maintain a strong working relationship. The two have long been partners in real estate deals, including Symphony House (left), Southstar Lofts and 777 South Broad. And now Gamble has agreed to sell two lots he owns at Broad and Spruce streets to Dranoff in order to make his project possible.

When we asked Gamble about the status of the Royal Theater, which remains uncertain amidst both a conservatorship challenge and a still-pending petition to demolish most of the structure, his response suggested that Dranoff may have ideas for the space. Though Dranoff has said he is only acting as an advisor to Gamble’s Universal Companies on the Royal, it seems possible that he may be considering more involvement.

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Ori Feibush on Universal Companies: “We Want to Give Them the Latitude They Need”

royal theater

Photo by Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons

One of the complexities of the development of the Royal Theater is a legal process that compels Universal Companies, the current owner of the historic South Street theater, to do something with the property or let it go to conservatorship.

Neighborhood resident Juan Levy filed an Act 135 petition that would mark the property as blighted should Universal do nothing to develop it. In that case, a court-appointed conservator would take possession of the Royal in order to rehabilitate it and then sell it, but with a profit limited to 10 percent.

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Universal Defends Its Record at Charged Meeting About Royal Theater


After last night’s public meeting at the Bainbridge Club on the redevelopment of the Royal Theater, three things are certain:

1. Barring some miracle, the Royal will not survive whole.

2. Many residents would like owner Universal Companies to at least honor the theater’s history and heritage.

3. Universal will have to do more fence-mending to bring skeptical near neighbors on board with its plans.

The meeting was the first of what will likely be a series of public meetings to inform the community and obtain feedback on Universal’s plans to demolish and redevelop much of the African-American cultural landmark and build on an adjacent lot as a mixed-use project that will include street-level retail on South Street, apartments above, and new townhouses on Kater Street.

Read more »

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