The Rittenhouse Coffee Shop and Warwick Building Included in Southern Land Deal

CEO Tim Downey hails the site as an "iconic" location on and near Rittenhouse Square.

Yesterday, we told you about the Southern Land Company’s deal to purchase the vacant lot at 1907-14 Walnut Street and also the parcel at 1906-1920 Sansom Street, which includes the surface parking lot, Oliver H. Bair funeral home, and the Warwick Apartment building. Today, we’ve received confirmation that the deal also includes The Rittenhouse Coffee Shop, a beautiful building at 1904 Sansom Street that’s more of an art installation these days. So what will become of these handsome, if vacant, buildings on Sansom Street now that there are new owners are on the scene?

“Southern Land intends to work with the historic commission to restore the Rittenhouse Coffee Shop and Warwick,” Jessica Sharp, spokesperson for the company, said in an email. While the role of these buildings in the overall project is still uncertain, what’s clear is that Southern Land is excited about the deal.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had the chance to work on such an iconic spot,” said Tim Downey, CEO of Southern Land Company. “I think that Center City, and University City, is such a gem.” Downey reiterated the importance of the deal and getting the future development right, “It will probably be the last building built on The Square for a long time to come.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 1.48.16 PMDowney said that he “couldn’t really comment on the terms” of the deal, but did mention that the final price will depend on what is eventually able to be built on the site, which corresponds to earlier reports.

As for the project, Downey said they were open to anything going forward, but envisions a scenario that could include residential (for sale or apartments), ground floor retail and even boutique office space. The idea is to meet with the the neighborhood and area stakeholders to get a sense about what could happen at the site. Downey elaborated on the plan:

“We fully plan to carry the land for a year or two while we figure it out. [It’s] not a shovel-ready, we’ve-already-got-it-designed type of thing … I want to generally be in line with what people would like to see on that site.”

With architects, interior designers and landscape designers in-house, Downey patterned the Tennesse-based company after Walt Disney’s Imagineering model said the focus is on quality design. “We’re a very design-driven company, kind of slow from time to time, we take our time to figure it out.”

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