The Royal Theater was built almost a hundred years ago at 1524 South St. and in its heyday was a center for African American culture in Philadelphia. Since 1970 though, it's been vacant and slowly wasting away. Plans have come and gone over the years to bring the theater back to life, with the most recent coming to light last fall. At a large community meeting, Universal, which has owned the building since 2000, presented a preliminary plan to demolish the building, maintain the facade, create thirty rental apartments in a new building on South Street, and build six homes on Kater Street. Reactions were mixed at the time.
Last week, neighbors heard about a new plan at a well-attended SOSNA meeting. Dranoff Properties, the company that built Symphony House, Southstar Lofts, and several other major Philadelphia developments, has come on as a partner with Universal to redevelop the Royal Theater. The plan they presented last week along with a representative from JDavis Architects would, like the previous plan, involve the demolition of the building but the preservation of its historic South Street facade. But instead of a mix of apartments and townhomes, the newest iteration would exclusively include apartments- 45 to be exact.
Renderings at the meeting showed new construction on the vacant lots that currently bookend the theater building, though the rehabbed facade would be highlighted and appropriately restored. A 7,200 sqft retail space with extra high ceilings would be a major boon for South Street West, which generally lacks larger sized commercial space. Parking concerns for the project would be mitigated by twenty-one underground parking spaces, accessed via a garage on Kater Street.
The developers have met with neighbors and stakeholders in the community, and that process will continue in the coming months. Though the developers will seek an ordinance to redevelop the property, there will still be several community meetings on the project and the SOSNA Architectural Review Committee will be involved as well. As these meetings move forward, we'll be sure to keep you abreast. And hopefully, we'll be able to get our grubby hands on some renderings.
Disclosure: The guy who owns the company that owns this blog is currently involved in a legal action involving the Royal Theater.