Running between 2nd and 3rd Streets and connected by a pedestrian-only path, Liberties Walk arrived on the scene about fifteen years ago, around the time the Piazza was constructed across the street. It’s sort of charming but also kind of disarming, with a Disney-ish prepackaged vibe that never really meshed with the surrounding area. Unlike the neighboring Piazza, the Liberties Walk buildings only rise three stories and the development also includes a ton of surface parking. And while some businesses in Liberties Walk have been quite successful (hello, El Camino Real), many of the retail spaces have turned over several times, while others have sat vacant for years.
In many ways, Liberties Walk has felt like a placeholder development to us since the day it was completed. The combination of the design of the buildings and the dramatic underuse of desirable property always left us wishing for something better. We would have expected that it would take at least a couple more decades before these properties would be replaced, but it seems the wait will be much shorter than that. You may recall, Post Brothers bought the Piazza a couple years back and they also purchased the huge vacant lot adjacent to the Piazza, where they’re currently under construction on a large mixed-use development. In for a penny, in for a pound, they also bought Liberties Walk. And they’re not playing out the string on the existing development- they intend to tear it down and start over.
Next month, these developers are coming to Civic Design Review to share their plans for 1030 N. American St., the middle section of Liberties Walk which runs between N. American and Bodine Streets. Their plan calls for the demolition of what’s there and the construction of a new eight story building with 76 apartments, 89 parking spaces which are mostly in the basement, and two retail spaces which cover a combined space of almost 10K sqft. As is the case today, this project will also have an east-west walking path from American to Bodine, though it won’t be entirely open to the sky as a portion of the building will cover a section of the pedestrian area. ISA did the design work, and the renderings look pretty sweet.
This is only one part of the plan for Liberties Walk, however. At a community meeting last night, Post Brothers also discussed their plans for the eastern and western sections of Liberties Walk. Between Bodine and 3rd Street, they are planning another mixed-use building, which will resemble the building rendered above. It will sit on a smaller property and will therefore will only include 28 units, but it will similarly include ground floor retail. This plan will be coming through CDR in November, so look for more info soon.
Further down the line, the developers are also planning to replace the section of Liberties Walk that runs between 2nd and N. American Streets, but instead of residential over commercial, they’re thinking of office over commercial instead. They were having conversations with potential tenants before COVID hit, and those discussions have obviously hit a snag as the virus has impacted the office sector of the market. We still think that an office would be an interesting and positive addition to this area, but we can also see a world in which Post pivots to more apartments if they can’t find the right office tenants as they look to move their plans forward.
It was only yesterday that we mentioned all of the ongoing construction just below 2nd & Girard and now we see there will be even more mixed-use development for this area in the very near future. As we said before, the challenge for retail around here has historically been a lack of a critical mass of customers nearby, but the addition of hundreds of new units in Northern Liberties and hundreds more on the other side of Girard should really change the equation. We have to think that all these new apartments and businesses will increase the vibrancy of this part of town in a dramatic way. When the Piazza first opened, this was probably the most exciting place to live in Philadelphia- and once all the construction here is finished, that may well be the case again.