The Piazza was a game changing development when it opened in 2009, seemingly marking the arrival of Northern Liberties as a destination neighborhood, despite its position on the fringe of Center City. For those that don’t remember, the Schmidt’s Brewery, other industrial buildings, and vacant land previously dominated the eastern side of 2nd Street below Girard Avenue, and Bart Blatstein of Tower Development purchased a package of properties totaling about 17 acres here back in 2000. The price was $1.8M. We think the property would probably be worth about 75x that amount today, which would have been as inconceivable back in 2000 as the $1.8M price seems to us in 2020.
A commercial building with a supermarket appeared to the north of the Piazza by 2011, but Tower still owned a ton of undeveloped or underused real estate in the area. For years, we waited for a second phase of the Piazza on the huge parcel between Piazza I and the supermarket, only seeing a parking garage appear on the southern side of the parcel in 2016. Finally, in 2018, we heard legit rumblings that a second Piazza would be built here, and construction started in earnest this year.
The original plans called for 1197 units, but the unit count was reduced to 861 at the end of 2019 as Post Brothers took over the project. Still, that sounded like an amazing number of new units and we would have had no issue with such a plan. For whatever reason, the developers have decided to pump up the unit count again, this time to 1131 units, and are going to Civic Design Review to get approvals for a third tower and an amenity deck on top of the parking garage on the southern end of the site. Seems like a no brainer to us- what’s another 270 units between friends? Incidentally, they’re referring to this new development as Piazza Terminal, which has a nicer ring to it than Piazza II.
Also going to CDR this month is Mercato, a new building also from Post Brothers, planned just to the south of the Terminal project. This would replace a one-story industrial building at 1021 N. Hancock St. which looks pretty cool in its own right but represents a tremendous underuse at this location. The proposal for its replacement would certainly represent a massive upgrade.
The plans, designed by Digsau, show a 13-story building with 280 apartments and 6,000 sqft of retail space. The building will have an incredibly unique appearance with sweeping curves and window openings that playfully alternate between horizontal and vertical alignment. We also appreciate how this new building will contrast with the existing adjacent Piazza and the upcoming adjacent Piazza Terminal. Though it’s essentially part of the same huge development, it will very much have its own architectural personality.
In another environment, the Mercato project would be a stop in your tracks huge development and would probably represent the largest development in the neighborhood in a given year. Instead though, with the project just to the north ongoing and seemingly expanding, as well as the upcoming reimagining of the Liberties Walk properties, it’s almost a 280-unit footnote. In all, these projects will add over 1,500 new apartments and tens of thousands of square feet of retail to the area. Sure, the northern section of Northern Liberties will be a treacherous construction zone for the next couple of years, but once all the buildings are done, the neighborhood will have leveled up and become an even more attractive place to live, shop and work.