Is There a Big Hotel in the Works on 19th Street?

The demolition of a small building on 19th below Market gives rise to rumors of something bigger taking its place.

29 S. 19th: Today a cleared lot, tomorrow...? | Photo: Sandy Smith

29 S. 19th: Today a cleared lot, tomorrow…? | Photo: Sandy Smith

Up until last month, 29 S. 19th St. was one of a row of 19th-century homes-turned-commercial structures that survived the transformation of West Market Street and environs into an office canyon.

Today, it’s now a cleared patch of dirt after its current owner demolished it.

That owner is a limited partnership, South 19th Street LP, whose mailing address is the same as that of Parkway Corporation, which owns the driveway next to it and the parking lot behind it via the same limited partnership. According to Office of Property Assessment data, South 19th Street LP purchased the 1,181-square-foot lot and 2,832-square-foot building at 29 S. 19th for $1 million last August.

Word on the street has been that Parkway is interested in plopping a hotel — or a similar large development — on this lot and the one it already owned. OPA data show that the parking lot at 31 S. 19th has been owned by South 19th Street LP since April of 2011, when it was purchased for $1.55 million. That lot, an 11,143-square-foot property that also has frontage on Ludlow and Ranstead streets, had housed a parking garage that was used as a Hertz rental car office prior to its acquisition and leveling.

Property spoke with owners and staff in businesses on either side of the cleared lot to see what could be gleaned about its likely fate.

What we learned from Tung To, who owns ToBox Shoes, which rents space at 25 S. 19th Street, was this: Parkway had apparently tried to acquire all of the properties on South 19th between Ludlow Street and the driveway it owned. However, the owners of 23-25 and 27 S. 19th weren’t interested.

Chau Tran, owner of both Nails by Chau and the building that houses it at 27 S. 19th, explained that she wasn’t interested in selling to Parkway at any price: “I need the space for my business,” she said. “If I sell it, I have no place to go. Rents are very high.” She did go on to say that she had been willing to work out some sort of air rights deal the way a similarly situated cousin of hers in Canada did: “They could use my sky if they wanted to do that,” she said. “They would have to pay me for relocating” while construction took place, then when it was complete, they would simply restore use of the bottom three floors and basement on the lot to her.

Chau suggested that the owner of the building where To runs his shoe store was willing to strike a similar deal, but we were unable to contact him for comment. OPA records show the owner of record as Daniel Real Estate LLC, with a mailing address same as the building it owns, but To explained that the actual landlord maintains an office elsewhere.

What To had heard about plans for the site was that Parkway had planned to build “an L-shaped condo” or something similar on the parking lot and cleared building.  To thought this idea was “ridiculous,” mainly because of the lot’s irregular shape, with a finger pointing toward 19th Street from its back-alley location.

A spokesperson for Parkway Corporation declined to confirm or deny the rumor, saying the company was not ready to comment on the site. The spokesperson did, however, state that Parkway was no longer interested in acquiring the properties at 23-27 S. 19th. (The Swiss Haus bakery, just to the south of the parking lot, was never part of the company’s planned purchases.)

The lots are part of the densest zoning category under the city zoning code, which means that just about anything that might conceivably go up on the site could be built by right, but it’s likely that should Parkway proceed with something, it will confer with the local review board to obtain community feedback and buy-in to the project.

We will keep you abreast of developments as we learn more.