Fast food restaurants are quickly going the way of the dinosaur in Center City, with the McDonald’s that once stood at 914 S. Broad St. as a prime example of how tastes change. It was back in February of last year when we told you that this McDonald’s, which had been operating since the 1970s, would not have their lease renewed. Since then, the building has been torn down and the property now sits empty at the northwest corner of Broad & Carpenter, adjacent to some vacant lots.

Several years back, when the retro-themed McDonald's still stood
The empty lot showing some signs of life, with a surveyor in the back corner
View looking east from 15th of the McDonald's-owned parking lot behind the development site

Though McDonald’s is famously in the burger business, it’s more accurately in the real estate business, owning thousands of valuable properties all over the world, upon which their restaurants sit. That’s why it’s so odd that the lot where the McDonald’s was once located is not owned by McDonald’s, but by an individual who has owned the property for decades. Even more interesting, McDonald’s owns the 20K sqft lot to the west, which was used as a McDonald’s parking lot, as well as the roughly 3,000 sqft lot immediately to the north of the former McDonald’s site. The roughly 15K sqft vacant lot to the north, which extends all the way to Christian Street, is owned by music legend and Universal Companies founder Kenny Gamble.

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Lots of underutilized property here

Thanks to an Inquirer article from Monday, we know that long-time Philly developer Carl Dranoff is planning a by-right project at the former McDonald’s site, consisting of 85 units over ground floor retail. While this 85K sqft project will make a huge difference in closing the chasm between the Washington Ave. corridor to the south and Center City to the north, we find ourselves disappointed that this will seemingly only involve the privately owned site at the corner of Broad & Carpenter and won’t include the other vacant lots nearby. Certainly, this project will represent a great upgrade at this corner, but it still feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps though, this will be the first of many dominoes that will fall in the area, and we’ll see the other lots fill in sometime soon, along with other underutilized properties to the north. On the plus side, there’s already plenty going on to the south.

Things are finally cooking at the long vacant lot at the northeast corner of Broad & Washington, where construction started earlier this year after numerous redesigns. This project is the result of a partnership between Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments and Post Brothers and will bring nearly 1,500 units to the area over multiple phases along with some big retail spaces. BKV Group is leading the design, and thanks to an update from Philly Mag from earlier this year, we know that this three-phased project will deliver the first phase in 2024, with all three wrapping up by the end of 2026. Let’s check out the extremely difficult to photograph site and see what’s to come.

The massive Post Brothers/Bart Blaststein project at Broad & Washington
Future view of the project looking south from Broad St.
View of phase 1 of the project, to be completed in 2024
An aerial of the full build out, to be completed by the end of 2026

Talk about an upgrade, right? As we made our way north up Broad Street after checking things out, it was rather thrilling to dream of the future between Washington Ave. and City Hall. It is wild to envision a time, sometime soon, when Broad Street is teeming with life all the way from Washington up through Girard Ave. and beyond. Perhaps, maybe if we squint hard enough, we may even see median parking disappear from Broad south of Washington Ave. – hey, we can dream, right?