The first mile of North Broad Street beyond City Hall is currently in the middle of a staggering transformation. Perhaps the lynchpin of this progress is the redevelopment of the Divine Lorraine, the wonderful building at Broad & Fairmount that sat vacant and blighted for years until it finally reopened as an apartment building in 2017. The other pillar is the long blighted Metropolitan Opera House, which reopened this year as a concert venue. Several apartment buildings dot the landscape on North Broad, most of which have opened in the last decade, and there are several more in the pipeline for the coming years.
There’s been considerably less momentum on South Broad Street. Though the blocks of Broad Street through Center City have remained active over the years, things have historically dropped off at South Street. Lots below South have certainly filled in some, but there are still numerous properties that are either vacant or severely underused. 701 S. Broad St. is one such property, a 9,000 sqft parcel that’s currently used as a parking lot. There was a KFC location here that closed way back in 2005, and the building still remains on a portion of the property, currently covered in some creative public art.
Almost exactly three years ago, we told you that the property was listed for sale for $5.2M. We felt that the price was too high, but were still encouraged that the building was listed and felt hopeful that someone would be able to strike a deal with the owners. Alas, the photos above were taken quite recently, and public record indicates that it still belongs to the same ownership group that’s owned it since 2007.
Public record isn’t always accurate, however. Often, when a property trades, it takes weeks or even months before the City is able to catch up with the paperwork. And we have a feeling that’s exactly what’s happening here. Because earlier this week, the City issued a permit for this address for a project to demolish the building on the site and to construct a seven-story mixed-use building. This project will include a fresh food market on the first floor, 4 hotel rooms on the 2nd floor, and 50 apartments over the rest of the building. Cool as the former KFC looks, this will be an obvious upgrade. And if you couldn’t figure from the fact that the permit has been issued, this project will proceed as a matter of right, so it’s quite likely that it will move forward.
Though this would improve Broad & Bainbridge, the intersection could still benefit from some additional redevelopment. The gas station across the street sits on a lot that’s a wee bit larger and has the same exact zoning designation. Perhaps a successful project on the southeast corner could promote the idea of a similar project on the northeast corner? With another gas station just two blocks away to the south, it sounds like a win-win idea to us.