Plan for Broad & Washington Would Be a Game Changer

Regular readers know that we've had a bee in our bonnet over Broad & Washington for years. And who wouldn't, really? Two of the largest streets near Center City intersect, and two of the four corners are huge vacant eyesores. In 2008, it looked like a developer was finally going to change things on the northeast corner.

The Rimas proposal

Six years and one giant piƱata have passed since this proposal came along, and the parcel still looks like this:

Sigh

In 2011, rumors emerged that Wal-Mart had some interest in the property. We also heard rumblings that Dranoff Properties, the company that developed 777 South Broad just a few blocks away, was in negotiations to buy the parcel. As the photo above clearly shows, neither of those things happened. Over the last year or so though, Tower Investments has come forward, and it seems like a safe bet that they will be the company that finally redevelops the northeast corner of Broad & Washington. But what's that going to look like? Earlier this year, when we squashed rumors of a Wegman's, we showed you an early concept from Tower that would have been 100% commercial.

Early concept for the project

Last night at a Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition meeting, Bart Blatstein from Tower presented a new version of the project which, as we may have mentioned, would be a game changer for this corner. If built as presented last night, the project would include a pad with three floors of retail including a grocery store on the first floor, a large retailer on the third floor, and a collection of smaller stores and restaurants. Above the retail pad, which would also have 710 parking spots, two residential towers are planned, each with between 500 and 800 rental apartments. Wowza.

An architect from Beyer Blinder Belle showed some pretty pictures of what the project could look like. Please forgive the grainy images, they're photos of the project as projected in the room. But they certainly give you an idea of what's in store.

Project rendering

Aerial view

Street view on South Broad Street shows retail definition

Looking down Broad Street

The reactions from the crowd were decidedly mixed. Some neighbors were pleased to hear that the parcel looks like it will finally get redeveloped and seemed to appreciate the transit oriented development a block away from a Broad Street Line stop. Others were upset, believing that this project had too much density and not enough parking. Mr. Blatstein was asked whether he would consider shaving off a few stories to reduce the density, and he indicated that he wasn't interested in reducing the height and unit count just so he could say he did it. Strong answer. He also suggested that he was willing to invest in the community playground nearby.

So folks, what do we think? Do three floors of commercial and 1000-1600 units seem like the way to go for this corner or would you prefer something smaller? Or bigger? Or purely commercial, like the previous iteration? Or should it perhaps continue to sit vacant for the next twenty years? We suspect that the project will undergo some changes and refinement, but we'd guess that something resembling the images above will start moving forward here in the next six months or so. And when that happens, we'll only be left with one eyesore at this intersection. Progress, people!

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