A New Approach for a Familiar Lot on the Delaware River

Allow us, if you will, to take you back to a time about 15 years ago or so, when there were several large proposals for the Delaware River waterfront. If your mental math skills are a little rusty after the long holiday weekend, this would take us back to 2007, shortly before the 2008 financial crisis wiped away hopes of many of those projects. One such project was a 44-story apartment complex with over 200 units proposed by a NY real estate developer and casino magnate. Wonder whatever happened to that guy. Anyway, this spot at 709 N. Penn St. juts out onto Pier 35 1/2, where a tower would have soared well above the Waterfront Square complex just to the north.

44-stories would have towered over the rest of the waterfront
View looking north shows how much this would have stood above the neighborhood
Terrace would have included a spa, pool, tennis courts and more

As you’re probably well aware, this building was not built. Back in 2015, we wrote about this very lot, as it had changed hands. At the time, plans called for a 50-unit townhome complex, with the homes lining the water, and a drive aisle in the middle, providing access to two-car garages. The plans and land were marketed for sale, and they sold again back in 2018, when 41 townhomes were to be developed by Herrco Builders, according to an article from the Inquirer.

View of past townhouse proposal, looking south
Another view of the previous townhome proposal, with Festival Pier in the foreground and Waterfront Square in the back

The site has sat untouched for several years, but it seems as if things may soon be afoot for this property. According to a listing, the site is not only available for sale for $15.5M, but plans have been submitted for review to CDR as of early April. What’s coming our way will be a 48-unit building on the west end of the site, with 12 townhomes and a separate commercial building filling out the rest of the peninsula. This is a by right project and the listing states that zoning permits should be available soon. Let’s check out the site as it looks today and what’s probably in store moving forward.

Current view of 709 N. Penn St., looking east
Current view looking north shows how close Waterfront Square is to the site
A taste of what's to come? Mixed used building on the western side, with townhomes further east
An alternate angle shows proximity to other projects close by

This new approach is definitely a step up from the last few proposals. Upping the density by adding an apartment component while minimizing the number of single-family units makes sense in our book. This area can absolutely handle this influx of new residents, there’s plenty going on in the immediate area. Just to the south, for example, the former Festival Pier site is being cleared and prepped for to the addition of 470 units and nearly a dozen retail spots. While 61 units at 709 N. Penn St. may seem paltry by comparison, we’ll be cheered to see both properties get redeveloped, hopefully in the coming years, adding new vibrancy to the underused and under-appreciated Delaware waterfront.

Current progress of the Festival Pier site, just steps to the south
The future view looks just a little bit different