Toll Brothers Out, New Developers In For Society Hill Playhouse

About a year ago, we shared the news that the Society Hill Playhouse was closing its doors after half a century at 507 S. 8th St., and Toll Brothers intended to demolish the structure and build condos in its place. The developers also had their eye on a parking garage across the street which would similarly get torn down and replaced with condos. This sparked considerable debate among readers. Some folks were generally on board with the project, some hoped that the old theater could be somehow be preserved, and others just threw around Toll Brothers hate without much commentary on the project itself. Among near neighbors, it seems the project drew considerable consternation, undergoing multiple changes as the months rolled by and the meetings piled up.

Society Hill Playhouse

Garage across the street

Initially, as we mentioned, Toll was looking to build condos, a la their projects at Naval Square and 410 at Society Hill. That plan went through several iterations, but would have entailed five stories with ground-floor parking. Unable to come to a consensus with neighbors, Toll Brothers then shifted to a by-right plan for two rental apartment buildings with no parking. JKRP Architects produced a rendering to show what that would have looked like.

Rendering for the final Toll Bros. iteration. Image from Philly Mag

Last week though, word came out that Toll Brothers was walking away from the project. As an indication of the desirability of the site, it took a mere week for a new developer to come forward. According to Plan Philly, the new developers are planning an apartment building with 26 units, 8 parking spots, and a green roof. This plan will take advantage of a relatively new addition to the zoning code which grants a density bonus in certain zoning districts for projects with large green roof features. Interestingly, the Plan Philly story doesn't mention the garage across the street, so we have to assume that a different developer will tackle that property.

For those that dislike Toll Brothers, all of this is great news, but we'd posit that there's no guarantee that a different developer will offer a superior project. A four-story rental apartment building with density at this location makes a ton of sense to us, but we don't have to live next door. What do you think?