Empty North Broad Lot Pirouettes to a New Home for the Philadelphia Ballet

North Broad Street has become one of the busiest development stretches anywhere in Philly. Projects pop up left and right as you head north from City Hall, but the lot at 323 N. Broad St. between Vine and Callowhill has remained stubbornly vacant over the last several years. Owned by the Philadelphia Ballet, there were plans in the past to turn the site into a new home for the ballet company. Formerly called the Pennsylvania Ballet before a recent renaming, we reported three years back that the organization had past plans which would have revamped the remaining pre-war building on-site into a new ballet facility.

View of the pre-war buildings that stood here several years back
Past proposal would have kept the northernmost building

After no signs of progress since 2019 (beyond some staging on site for some of the other projects taking place close by), an announcement was made a few weeks back that plans were indeed in place to move forward to build a contemporary addition fronting Broad St. that would house new facilities for the organization. Let’s check out the current site to get a better feel for the area before we get to those new plans.

Recent view shows both buildings gone, with site being used for staging for other nearby projects

While we mourn the loss of some of N. Broad’s architectural history, what is coming our way will most certainly be a huge benefit to both the Ballet as well as the neighborhood. A contemporary glass facade will light up the five-story structure, which will fill up the currently empty lot along Broad Street. As you can see below, there have been MAJOR changes since the proposal first went public a few years back.

Old rendering of the Pennsylvania Ballet plans
"Updated" current rendering looking across N. Broad St.

OK, so the updated signage with the new name might not actually be a major design change, but what’s even more important is what’s inside. Nearly 50K sqft of rehearsal, performance, administrative and public space is included in the plans. This will greatly increase the organization’s current 15K sqft digs and make it more competitive for top talent, along with providing more space for the casual dancers in the area. The new Center for Dance will feature a dancer-friendly layout that includes training and expanded rehearsal capabilities with separate facilities for professionals and amateurs alike. Let’s check out some of these very cool new spaces from this design from Varenhorst Architects.

Two-story rehearsal space at top of building will overlook Broad St.
Workspaces for youth dancers and office space for administrative functions will make up some of the new space
Lobby area welcomes public and can provide event space
Another view of the lobby
Physical therapy room will serve dancers and act as a recruiting tool
Black box performance/rehearsal space
Additional rehearsal space

Groundbreaking took place a couple weeks back, shortly after the construction announcement, with a target completion date in 2024. This is yet another awesome addition to North Broad, which has been undergoing a full-on reinvention over the last several years. With the push toward a North Broad Business Improvement District seemingly close to becoming a reality, we hope that we’ll continue to see the North Broad Renaissance. With all the new residents that will be moving to the corridor soon, we’d imagine that the upward trajectory will continue along this increasingly exciting stretch just north of downtown.