New and Improved Plan For Large Property Next to Sugarhouse, Er, Rivers Casino

About a year and a half ago, we told you that developers were planning a new project at 1121 N. Delaware Ave., a roughly 4-acre site on the Delaware Waterfront. This property, if you can’t picture it, sits right between the ongoing but slow moving Views at Penn Treaty project and the artist formerly known as Sugarhouse. We told you to expect a 60-unit townhome development on this parcel, which would have been permitted by right and would have dovetailed nicely with the 19 new homes in the project next door. Still, it felt to us like an underuse at the time, and we would have preferred a little more density, given the prominent location on the waterfront and so close to the bottom of Frankford Avenue.

Current view
Rivers Casino, recently reopened

It seems the community was similarly underwhelmed, per a story from Star News. Generally, when faced with a by-right project, developers tend to stick with their plans- but for whatever reason, they decided to pivot here, and later this month they’ll present a revised plan that reduces the town home component to 28 units and adds a pair of mixed-use buildings which will have 88 units between them. The building fronting Delaware Avenue will have a retail space along the street and the interior building will also have a commercial space. This will ostensibly target people that live within the development since it’ll have no street frontage and possibly no access from the outside. We suspect it’ll turn into a gym or some other amenity before the project is done construction.

Even though the project is happening by right, its size necessitates a presentation at Civic Design Review. Here are the renderings, with credit to Abitare Design Studio.

3D site plan
Project rendering
View from the river, love the sail boats
Aerial view from the river
View from the river trail

Interestingly, the same Star News story indicated that the community was not into the idea of having retail space on Delaware Ave., given the general lack of foot traffic, and instead was interested in retail space on the eventual section of the Delaware River Trail. As this would rejigger the entire project again, we don’t see it as particularly likely, especially since it would mean putting a number of townhomes right on Delaware Ave. and taking them away from having frontage on the trail. That being said, it’s still an interesting idea and we wonder whether we’ll see it happen on a future project.

Certainly this would seem like a strong candidate for the concept, especially with Penn Treaty Park very close by and the thought that this section of the trail would get a ton of use. But we can also appreciate why the developers wouldn’t be eager to change the layout of their project and take on added risk, especially after they’ve totally reworked the site once before. So we’ll call it a bit of a missed opportunity, but it’s also a wholly understandable and defensibly choice by the developers. Even so, we’ll look forward to seeing this prominent parcel get developed and adding another link to the chain of the Delaware River Trail.