Toll Brothers, the Horsham, PA-based megadeveloper, has found late-career success in the unlikeliest of places: bustling cities. The company has done projects throughout New York City, as well as the remarkably successful 600-unit Naval Square in Graduate Hospital. Now Toll Bros. is pushing its latest Philadelphia offering: the still-under-construction 410 at Society Hill, the luxury condo complex on Headhouse Square that replaces the large hole where Newmarket once stood.
Last December the Philadelphia Business Journal reported that Toll Brothers Inc. was interested in the long-vacant — loooong vacant — property at 1911 Walnut Street. The luxury homebuilder’s plans for the undeveloped site included a 50-story tower for condos and hotel and retail space, which made sense for Rittenhouse Square.
Except now, they’ve pulled out.
“Left unsaid was an ever-so-slight inferiority complex: The Keystone State is grand, but the Empire State, grander.” This is an actual sentence penned by the New York Times’ Trip Gabriel in an article about Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians going to New York, which, as Simon Van Zuylen-Wood notes, perpetuates rather tired stereotypes that all we want for Christmas is a trip (Trip!) to Barneys in the Big City.
Additionally, Gabriel misquotes his own newspaper when he says, “If Pennsylvanians were inclined to feel a little like a sixth borough when contemplating New York City…” The article to which he refers was not about the state as a sixth borough, which would be the largest borough in known history, but the city of Philadelphia as a sixth borough. And its point, actually, was that New Yorkers were moving to Philadelphia because it was more affordable and manageable than New York is. It had nothing to do with inferiority.
And there’s more…
How can we possibly step inside the rooms at 410 at Society Hill, you say? The old Newmarket spot remains a concrete wasteland! Fortunately, the sales office has replicated, with utter precision, many rooms in the Toll Brothers’ upcoming luxury condo developments. Photos below were taken by Angelly Carrion.
It’s official: The construction and marketing of Toll Brothers 410 At Society Hill — aka THE DEVELOPMENT THAT WILL FINALLY RECLAIM THE GIANT NEWMARKET/WILL SMITH/STAMPER SQUARE WASTELAND — has begun in earnest: brochures, floorplans, renderings, a construction timeline, and the opening of a sales office where huge chunks of sample apartments are installed, IKEA-style, in order to demonstrate what, for instance, the kitchens in the luxury Toll Brothers units will look like.
The end date for construction has been set at 18 to 24 months from now. The luxury condos will have 55 units, ranging from one- to four-bedrooms, each with a minimum of 1,000 square feet. There are six different unit designs, but all with have at least one private terrace.
Newmarket was a kind of funky shopping mall, very Marimekko, in 1975, but it tanked. It was too cool for Headhouse’s historic school. Said tanking took a long time. At some point, Will Smith got excited about the space and planned to turn it into a W Hotel. Will, come on! The Philly boy should have known better. Most recently, developer Marc Stein had this crazy idea to build a high-rise there called Stamper Square. No dice.
In more recent years, homeless men have found it a comfortable place for a nap. See arrows.
Does the Toll Brothers City Living’s Naval Square development shout “city living” to you? It might not. The gated community that fortunately saved William Strickland’s landmark Naval Home on Grays Ferry Avenue seems more suburban than citified.
But it’s not just because of its gates. Even the ungated communities Toll Brothers City Living proposes in Philadelphia can seem less than fully urban. Take 2400 South, an in-progress development on a commercial thoroughfare with no commerce at all. Or how about the strictly residential project–at 410 S. Front–that is planned for the middle of Society Hill’s one real entertainment district?
Turns out, those who buy Toll Brothers City Living properties don’t necessarily want to live above a store.
“We would love to build mixed residential/commercial in this market,” says Brian Emmons, the vice president in charge of Toll’s City Living division, “but right now, [builders who do] can’t fill their retail. While everyone likes to live near commercial, the luxury demographic buyer chooses to live two to three blocks from it, not directly above it.”
It’s as if they’ve lived parallel lives, Robert Ridarelli and Bruce Toll. They both founded empires based on their names (Bobby Rydell; Toll Brothers) in the 1960s. Rydell was a teen idol with hits like “Volare” and “Wild One.” Toll Brothers was a real estate idol with hits like America’s Best Builder and National Builder of the Year. Bobby Rydell starred in a film. Toll Brothers starred in a film. They both called the Philadelphia area home. A lifetime of synergies.