Whether you deem it Northern Liberties or Fishtown, we should all be able to agree at this juncture that the parking lots around Rivers Casino are a suboptimal use of space. These huge swathes of surface parking are never close to full, while also creating a pretty big chasm in the streetscape and pedestrian experience. But at 933 N. Penn St., tucked between the casino and the Waterfront Square towers to the south, things are thankfully looking up.

An aerial of the greater Rivers Casino area, with 933 N. Penn conveniently identified

While we first stopped by here all the way back in 2012, it wasn’t until November 2021 that zoning permits were issued after plans were presented earlier to the Civic Design Review committee. New zoning permits since our last check-in indicate that we can expect to see 195 units across seven floors here, with 57 spaces for cars and 66 spaces for bicycles. With commercial space and parking access along the ground floor, this former parking lot – which started seeing major construction last fall – will soon be completely reactivated. Additionally, there are plans to have a public walkway wrap around the building, further extending the Delaware River Trail along the water. Steel is now a couple floors up on this design from HDO Architecture, which will bring a contemporary touch to the waterfront.

Looking SE towards 933 N. Penn today, with Waterfront Square in the background
A rendering of the contemporary addition planned for the site
A closer look from N. Penn St., with the Rivers Casino parking lot to the left
The future front facade
Peering at the back of the building at the future extension of the trail
The river-facing view of the building, which shows landscaping along the path and the connected pier
Another look at the progress from the parking lot

We are pumped to see progress here, as this empty parking lot was serving no one any good. We hope that as things move forward we get some clarity on the plans for the pier that is also part of this property; the rendering shows some landscaping, but this may be merely conceptual. As we were wandering along these fenced off properties and gazing toward future trails, we couldn’t help but swing by two other large empty properties you can see in that aerial view we shared.

First, the massive Waterfront Square lot, which has been fenced off for years after the initial plans for two additional towers to complete the five-tower project were scaped thanks to the Great Recession. While there’s no word on anything specific as of late, we can only imagine that the property owners have to be weighing their options on how to utilize this prime real estate.

The parking lots of Waterfront Square immediately to the south

Just to the south, 709 N. Penn St. had new plans pitched after a past proposal met a similar Recession-related fate. This currently overgrown peninsula could potentially hold 59 units across an apartment building and rowhomes in the future, though once again we didn’t see any signs of action when we strolled past.

The overgrown property at 709 N. Penn St.
Renderings show what could potentially rise here

Might 933 be the first of several dominoes to fall along the stretch? We sure hope so, as this area of what amount to access roads and surface parking lots creates a huge hole in the pedestrian experience between the goings on of Penn Treaty Park to the north and Race Street Pier and other action to the ever-busy south. Perhaps we’ll see some more of this casino parking repurposed as well, as there certainly seem to be ample opportunities to fill in this growing neighborhood.