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 »
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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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.
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Earlier this year, after Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies put the crumbling Royal Theater on South Street up for sale, real estate agent and developer Ori Feibush made a bid for the derelict hulk, meeting the asking price of $3.2 million. Given the extent of the repairs that need to be made to stabilize, let alone rebuild, the theater, the price strikes us as a bit lavish, but Royal OCF Holdings met it.
Gamble, however, never took him up on the offer. Now a neighbor has filed a petition to give it to him.
PDQ reports that the neighbor, Juan Levy, filed suit in Common Pleas Court to have a conservator appointed for the building under the provisions of Act 135, the state law that allows historic buildings to be put into a form of receivership if it appears the building is being demolished through neglect. In the suit, Levy recommended Feibush as conservator.
For his part, Feibush states he did not seek this intervention and that the court is free to appoint whoever it chooses. But Feibush has plans already announced for both redeveloping the Royal and building on vacant lots adjacent to it on South and Kater streets, which is more than Gamble has done to this point. And as rumors have circulated that Universal is suffering a cash crunch, turning down an offer to buy the building for the asking price seems odd indeed. Unless you think that Gamble’s sale effort was just a ruse to allow him to petition the Historical Commission to release him from covenants not to demolish the building attached when he purchased it from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 2000.
Stay tuned. This is gonna get real interesting real fast.
Royally Huge Act 135 Case Launched Against Owner of Royal Theater (PDQ)