Surface Lot Going to the “Wood” Shed at 5th & Wood

You’ve probably driven past the corner of 5th & Wood a few times, but it’s rather unlikely that you’ve ever found yourself there while on foot. That’s because its location is deceptively remote, despite its Center City location. On three sides, the property is adjacent to highway onramps which connect 676 to I-95 and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Perhaps that’s why it’s been used as a surface parking lot for the last few decades.

Surrounded by highways
Current view
Overpass across the street

Despite the highways to the north, west, and south (and the 5th Street tunnel to the east), many would still consider this to be prime-ish Center City real estate. And they would probably be onto something! Franklin Square is just a block away. The Constitution Center is just two blocks away. Sure, it’s on the edge of Old City, but it’s still in Old City, and once First Friday is a thing again, it’ll be a rather short walk to artwork and wine in plastic cups.

Of course, there’s so much more to Old City than drinking cheap wine while pretending you’re going to buy a painting- it’s also about history, as it’s one of the most prominent historic districts in town. As such, we noticed an upcoming project at 502 Wood St. when perusing the website for the Historical Commission. Yes, even when you’re looking to replace a surface parking lot in a historic district, you still need a blessing from the Historical Commission. And that’s what a development group is seeking for their plan for a six-story building with 50 units and ground-floor parking. JKRP Architects did the design work, and you can find some renderings below.

Project rendering
Another view

Of course, we’re all about seeing a new building replace a surface parking lot- we hate surface lots! But we wonder whether this project will actually move forward as planned. The initial HC staff response was that the project wasn’t compatible with the fabric of the historic district, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t ultimately get approved, but it could mean that it will take a little time and require a few design changes to get through the Commission’s process.

With the tax abatement set to change for projects that get permits after the end of this year, time is very much of the essence and there’s a chance the proverbial clock will strike midnight before this project gets its permits in order. Without knowledge of the project’s financials, it’s impossible for us to know whether it would still work with the reduced abatement, but we can safely say, at least, that it won’t work as well if it works at all. Let’s hope it either finds a path to approval before the end of the year or that it still pencils without the full ten-year abatement, as we’d be quite sad to see this parking lot stick around for any more years… or decades for that matter.

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