After Numerous Redesigns, Construction Finally Moving Forward at 4300 Ridge Ave.

Ridge Avenue is one of our favorite roads in Philadelphia. It appears, randomly and seemingly out of nowhere, on the 900 block of Wood Street in Callowhill. Fun fact, once upon a time it started at 8th & Race, but the creation of I-676 wiped out its first couple blocks in the 1980s. From its starting point in downtown Philadelphia, it winds its way through a bunch of neighborhoods, ignoring the grid and alternating between residential sections and commercial corridors as it goes. Then it continues on as Ridge Pike after leaving the city, past Conshohocken, King of Prussia, and Phoenixville, finally turning into Rt. 422 as it approaches Reading. That’s a long and winding road, indeed!

Apropos for a property located on Ridge Avenue, the same could be said for the development story at 4300 Ridge Ave., where construction finally got started last month. This property was once home to the Rivage Grand Ballroom, but the event space closed in the 1990s and the Redevelopment Authority purchased the 2-acre site. In 2006, the community heard plans for “The Terrace at Falls Ridge,” which called for 172 condos, 44K sqft of commercial and almost 50K sqft of office space. This never came to fruition, perhaps due to the housing crash of 2008. A few years later, in 2011, Onion Flats won an RFP to buy and redevelop the site, coming forward with a plan for “Ridge Flats,” a five-story building with 126 units, 138 parking spots, retail on Ridge Avenue, and a 20K sqft garden along Kelly Drive. By the time it got approved by the ZBA in 2013, the unit count had risen to 140. But the project never happened!

2013 rendering from Ridge Ave.
2013 rendering from Kelly Drive

By 2016, David Grasso had stepped in as the developer, and the details of the project had changed quite a bit. The unit count rose to 206, and the parking also increased to a total of 151 spots. The retail space also expanded, with plans for a supermarket on the first floor. Plans now called for six stories, and the form factor of the building was quite different from the previous iteration as well. The 2013 plan was pretty funky in terms of the facade, with liberal splashes of neon green (which we obviously support), but the 2016 plan pivoted to something much more professional and staid, almost resembling an office building. Never fear though, this also didn’t happen.

New plan in 2016
2016 Kelly Drive view

A couple years later, a revised project came around, reducing the height to five stories, reducing the unit count to 142, and dropping the retail space down to 11K sqft. The facade underwent another dramatic transformation, with a new curve at the corner of Ridge Avenue and Calumet Street, and a new mix of materials on the facade. You can probably guess though, this also did not happen.

Another look in 2018
From Kelly Drive in 2018

Finally, after all these years in the wilderness, it seems there’s a clear path ahead for this property. The apparent final iteration calls for a project that’s materially the same as the last proposal, with 142 units, a little over 10K sqft of retail space, 118 parking spots, and a bunch of amenities. The design has changed once again, with final renderings coming courtesy of Morris Adjmi Architects. Also, the project will include a public art component which feels like a great step up from the original plan for a big public garden across the street from the Schuylkill River Trail.

Final design
Final plan as seen from Kelly Drive

Groundbreaking happened last month, and the old building on the site was being demoed when we visited the other day. Progress!

Current view of the site
Ongoing demolition

The long and winding road <bum bum> that leads to Ridge Flats… will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here.

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