Philadelphia’s Newest Slimmest Tower Will Rise at 11th & Walnut

Conventional wisdom says that small lots and tall buildings don’t mix. But in the last decade or so, there’s been a shift in thinking as land has become increasingly valuable while rents and sale prices have continued to climb. New York has seen a number of skinny buildings rise in recent years, with buildings sporting heretofore unprecedented slenderness ratios now dotting the skyline. Now, in true Philadelphia fashion, we are starting to catch onto this trend, albeit in a more restrained (ie smaller) fashion.

Sayonara, Wendy's

Behold! 1101 Walnut St. in all of its teeny grandeur! As we told you previously, this 3,000 sqft parcel was perfectly suited for a bank in the 1960s and worked just fine for a Wendy’s location, starting in the 1980s. In this day and age, a one-story fast food joint isn’t anywhere near the best possible use of a property at the corner of 11th & Walnut, and when we previously wrote about the property, we speculated that it could be a strong candidate for redevelopment. We told you that a 300 foot building could rise here by right, but also cautioned that such a tall building with such a small footprint would be a strange sight. We also noted that the Jefferson helipad across the street could make things a little noisy for any project that could eventually happen here.

Last month, we learned that this property was indeed getting redeveloped and while we didn’t have details on the project, we knew that it would entail at least 111 residential units that were already pre-leased by short term rental company Sonder. Now, thanks to the magic of Civic Design Review, we have all the pertinent details for the project. The new building that’s planned for this location will rise 23 stories and will include three floors of retail and 111 apartments, with a mix of one and two bedroom units. It seems a bank will be taking the space on the first floor, a throwback use if we’ve ever seen one. Check out these renderings, from JKRP Architects:

Project rendering
Closer look
From the west
Aerial view

The developers of this project were able to increase the building footprint somewhat, as they have also purchased the building at 1105 Walnut St., which will be demolished and integrated into the new structure. Only about half of the property will be part of the tower, which looks like it’ll have roughly 50′ x 80′ floor plates. Yeah, those are some skinny floor plates.

Lest you think that this will be the first in a string of many slender buildings in town, we have a feeling that this project is something of a perfect storm of prime location and pre-leased apartments. It’s possible we could see more projects like this one, but we believe it’ll prove to be an outlier because of the specific circumstances surrounding its development. Or perhaps we’re off base and skinny buildings will indeed become a more normal sight in Philadelphia like in NYC, as developers seek to maximize returns on smaller-sized parcels in prime locations.