In a city that's hilariously lacking in downtown cinemas, the small and artsy Ritz Five at 220 Walnut St. is somehow one of the best we've got. If we're to give the matter some thought though, we come to the conclusion that a one story movie theater isn't exactly the best use for a 15K sqft parcel in Society Hill. And at least one developer out there agrees with that sentiment.
A couple weeks ago, developer Tom Scannapieco appeared before a crowd of roughly a hundred people at a Society Hill Civic Association meeting to present plans to demolish the Ritz Five and replace it with a high rise condo building. And Scannapieco knows a thing or two about this kind of project, as he previously built 1709 Rittenhouse and is now in the home stretch nearby at 500 Walnut. The plan calls for something very similar to 500 Walnut, with between 30 and 50 units that would be among the priciest in town on a per square foot basis. According to a story from Philadelphia Free Press, the project would also include the adjacent Nelson Building, which would get renovated into a lower rise use. Per a thread on Skyscraperpage, the theater would move from its current location to new digs inside a renovated Nelson Building. We don't quite know how that would work, but it sounds great.
Though it looked like a foregone conclusion that it would close, the Acme on 5th Street may yet survive. For those that haven't been following the story, Alterra Property Group put the property at 309 S. 5th St. under agreement in the spring of 2015 with an eye toward demolishing the market and building a mixed-use building in its place. Neighbors were displeased and negotiations ensued, led by Society Hill Civic Association and Councilman Squilla's office, and those talks led to Alterra reengaging Acme in a conversation about a long term lease. Those conversations were not successful though, and by the beginning of this year Alterra received a by-right zoning permit to demolish the building and replace it with a 5 story building with 65 apartments, ground-floor retail, and 43 underground parking spots.
The former Pearl Arts at 417 South St. has basically been in a state of flux since the arts and crafts supply store closed its doors back in 2011. Roughly three years ago, we heard about a plan to convert the building into 85 artist studios with prices starting at $250/month for 140 sqft. That plan would have also included a rooftop restaurant and and a reworked facade. But nothing ever came of that plan and the building remained vacant.
View from a few years ago
Shortly after, Millenneum Dance Complex took over the building, renovating the upper floors into dance studio space. But they were out in the summer of 2015. About a year ago, we checked in on the building and reported that it was under construction with a co-working business called Joynture signed on to take the upper floors. The retail space was listed for rent by MSC Retail. Checking in on the property today thanks to a reader tip, we discovered that the renovation of the building seems to be finished and that the first floor is occupied.
This is crazy, we hardly ever have anything to cover in Society Hill and now we're back in the neighborhood for the second time in a week. This time though, we're covering something that's not nearly as complicated or controversial as the demolition of a neighborhood supermarket. Instead, we're letting you know about a proposal for a pair of homes on Panama Street. A reader drew our attention to zoning notices posted at 336 S. 6th St., on a two-story building that was clearly built long after the many historic buildings in the neighborhood.
From the north
View of the building
No big whoop to see this building demolished, right? Looking at the architecture, we wonder what they were thinking back in 1981 when it was constructed. It's been used for the last number of years as a four-unit building with a small surface parking lot in the rear.
It seems those negotiations didn't go very well. Last month, Alterra received a conditional zoning permit to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed-use building with 65 apartments over 5 stories, ground-floor retail, and 43 underground parking spots. This project appears to be by-right, gaining 15 feet of allowable height due to a "fresh market" bonus provided by the zoning code, and gaining additional density because of a green roof bonus. This information comes from a SHCA notice that went up today, which also indicates that the project is under appeal with a hearing date to be determined.