As the name suggests, Parkway Corporation is in the parking business. They don’t own all the parking lots in Center City, but they own or operate at least a couple dozen lots or garages around town, so if you’ve got a car then you’ve probably given them some of your money somewhere along the line. But Parkway isn’t just in the parking business, they’re also in the development business. We can think of several examples over the last few years of Parkway partnering with someone to build new buildings on land that was previously used for parking. And we love these types of projects; as we’ve said ad nauseam, we don’t really care for surface parking lots.

The more centrally located the surface parking lot, the more we’d like to see it go away. So it’s with some pleasure sprinkled with hope that we draw your attention to the surface lot at 709 Chestnut St., which could soon be on the outs. With Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell a little more than a block away, this is quite obviously a desirable location for something more impressive than a surface lot. But alas, there’s been no building here since the early 1960s.

View from the west
Better view of the surface lot

A few years back, Parkway was making some noise about redeveloping this lot into an apartment building, but those plans never came to fruition. But now it appears that Parkway is revisiting this property, and we believe it’s more likely than ever that something will move forward here. Next month, the developers will present at Civic Design Review with a plan for a 27-story building with 278 rental units and 135 parking spaces, accessed via a mechanical system. The project has a couple of minor refusals related to the parking, but we’re pretty confident that they won’t hold the project back from getting approved. Check out these renderings, from Erdy McHenry.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 At 12.07.01 PM
Screen Shot 2018-08-27 At 12.06.56 PM
Aerial view
Screen Shot 2018-08-27 At 12.07.04 PM
From the southeast

For a building like this located on this block, you (and we) would probably expect some kind of retail on the first floor, but that’s not included in the plan. The lack of retail is largely due to the fact that the first couple floors of the building will be constructed away from the eastern property line to allow for a drive-aisle that goes from Chestnut Street, through to Ranstead Street. This will allow for the flow of traffic into the mechanized parking, and it will also have the benefit of leaving the ‘Legacy’ mural exposed in perpetuity. Artists Josh Sarantitis and Eric Okdeh supervised the mural in 2016, collaborating with 5 public schools to create this piece of public art. We’re not thrilled that the project won’t include retail, but at least it will maintain views of this wonderful mural. And did we mention it will replace a surface parking lot? We’ll still call the project a win.