Chocolate Factory Project is Coming Into Focus at Last

Frankford Candy is the largest marketer of licensed confections and gifts in the country and if you’ve ever eaten a chocolate bunny around Easter, it was probably made and/or distributed out of their sizable facility in the Northeast. Before moving there in the early 2000s, Frankford Candy was located much closer to downtown, in a sizable industrial building at 2101 Washington Ave., which people in the neighborhood still refer to as the “Chocolate Factory” property. This building, which was actually a collection of several structures originally constructed for a wallpaper manufacturing business, covered an entire city block and over two acres.

In the past

Frankford Candy sold the property at a time that the Graduate Hospital neighborhood was still in the early stages of gentrification. As development continued over the years in the neighborhood, a few different proposals made the rounds for the property. Developer Tran Dinh Truong came up with a redevelopment plan in 2009 which got denied by the ZBA. Another effort to redevelop the property, this time in cooperation with architects Campbell Thomas, got approval in 2012, but Truong passed away only a couple months later, and the project never moved forward. New buyers came forward a few years later and had an adaptive reuse plan, but that also didn’t come to fruition. New developers bought the property about a year and a half ago and you can find their logo at the top left corner of this page.

After years of vacancy and poor maintenance, the old factory building was deemed imminently dangerous by L&I and was substantively demolished within a few months of OCF taking ownership. The developers then moved forward with a plan to subdivide the property and received approvals to build two rows of town homes on the northern side of the property, with a total of forty homes. The first ten homes are now being framed, as you can see.

Current view

Plans for the front portion of the property have taken a little more time to come into focus, as the near neighbors and the community group obviously had a keen interest in what would be happening at this prominent location. After months of back and forth, OCF presented plans for an apartment building that rises five stories near 21st Street and goes up another floor on 22nd Street at a SOSNA meeting last night. This building will include 256 apartments on the upper floors, while the ground floor will have two sizable retail spaces with tenants slotted in as a CVS and an Aldi supermarket. The basement will be all parking, with a total of 120 spots. Check out these renderings, from JKRP Architects:

Rendering at 22nd Street
Rendering at 21st Street
Pedestrian area behind the building

Assuming it gets ZBA approval, this project won’t happen in a vacuum. As we mentioned, there are 40 homes under construction just to the north of the proposed apartment building. On the 2200 block of Washington, another entity related to this developer is building a row of 21 townhomes and has approvals for another mixed-use building that will bring dozens of additional units and some smaller retail tenants. And of course, don’t forget Lincoln Square at Broad Street and the apartment building currently wrapping up at 25th Street.

Overhead rendering shows neighboring projects

After fifteen years in the wilderness, the table is finally set for 2101 Washington Ave. to get redeveloped. The density will be a welcome addition, as will the commercial tenants, and both should only increase the potential for other under-utilized parcels on the Washington Avenue corridor. For years, we’ve been dreaming about this kind of mixed-use development along Washington Avenue, and it finally feels like it’s in reach not only for 2101 Washington Ave., but for the entire corridor.

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