As you make your way through the heart of Manayunk, you will come across a somewhat hidden and easily forgettable property at 3900 Main St., where a low-rise structure and a surface lot are surrounded by trees right along the Schuylkill River. We actually visited this site previously, first in 2011 when there were plans for a nine-story apartment building to go up on this site, then owned by television pioneer Dorothy Brunson. Back in 2016, plans pivoted to 27 single family homes, but as you can see by the current state of affairs, no progress has been made here as of yet.

An aerial view of the tree-covered surface parking lot at 3900 Main St.
A closer look at the current state of affairs
Another view of the property, looking towards the river
A look at the properties across Main St.

Thanks to an upcoming trip to the Civic Design Review (CDR), we now know there’s a new proposal for the site. This strip of Manayunk has seen a sizable amount of development in recent years, with projects popping up along the river, and the new owners of this property want to join the party. A three-building project is proposed here now, with 120 units and three ground-floor retail spaces extending downtown Manayunk. Interestingly, despite the close distance to the flood-prone Schuylkill River, there are also plans to add 52 underground parking spaces for residents and folks visiting the commercial spaces.

A look at all of the recent riverfront development
A look at the three-building site plan, with the underground parking access at the far east end

The design from SgRA is a modern, bright take on the five-over-one approach that we see so often. In this instance, the design team created a light, airy ground floor, with V-shaped supports breaking up what would otherwise be a very heavy massing. The white brick and lighter color choices also make the project almost seem like it’s floating above the ground level, which will provide landscaping and access to a future riverfront path. We are pleased to see nearly 20K sqft of commercial space here, ensuring that there should be plenty of reason for folks who live nearby to make their way down here.

A massing diagram shows off the three new buildings
The view looking across Main St.
Another view of the project from Main St.

While this is across the street from another 36-unit project that’s planned, we are honestly surprised to see a project like this so close to the river. The development team will need a variance to build within the flood plain, which is both understandable and something we’ve seen before. What we haven’t seen is the inclusion of underground parking. It was less than two years ago that Hurricane Ida overflowed the banks of the Schuylkill River and flooded everywhere from Conshy to Center City. As you can see in the video below, this 100-year flood completely covered the area where this project is proposed, so we hope that folks have good flood insurance if they’re planning on keeping their car in the underground parking area.