We’ve brought the Royal Theater to your attention a couple of times in the past, most recently almost a year ago when we feared that the historic building could soon collapse. A brief history: the building was designed by Frank E. Hahn and constructed around 1919. Notably, the theater targeted an African American audience, featuring movies with black stars and performances by prominent black entertainers.

Decades ago

The theater closed in 1970, was purchased by MIchael Singer Real Estate in 1973, and was largely neglected for the next twenty-five years. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia bought the building in 1998, and sold it to Universal Companies two years later for $300K. Included in that sale were surrounding lots on South and Kater Street, all of which are currently vacant lots.

Universal owns the Royal, along with the lots to the east, west, and north

Based on the number of trees currently growing out of the side of the building, we’re going out on a limb and saying that Universal hasn’t exactly been an ideal steward for this property. Between the giant vacant building and the vacant lots on all sides, the Royal holds South Street West back while at the same time offering a tremendous opportunity for an anchor retail tenant. We’re probably past the point where a large-scale entertainment venue could reasonably be expected to be embraced by the neighborhood (imagine the noise, the parking, etc) but a single huge or two rather large commercial tenants could take South Street West to the next level. Not that it hasn’t been doing pretty well for itself in spite of the condition of the Royal.

Image from Wikipedia

Last week, a bright light shined upon us from above when we heard rumblings that Universal was willing to listen to offers on the Royal, along with the surrounding lots. We’ve learned that an offer was made by Royal OCF Holdings (no relation ;)) for $3.2M for the theater, plus all the lots on the south side of South Street. At the moment, it seems that Universal is hoping they can do better. Are you interested in nearly 5,766 sqft of vacant land plus a historic but extremely dilapidated 9K+ sqft theater for a higher price? We’d suggest you give Universal a shout and see if they like your offer better.

We assure you, countless residents and business owners in the area would be extremely grateful.