It was a big week (on Zoom) for members of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association interested in big projects in the neighborhood. As we’ve already detailed, the community group saw presentations for a pair of game changing projects this week, with a 14-story building planned at 2nd & Spring Garden and a 23-story building coming to 2nd & Willow. But they also saw a presentation for one more huge project, also located in the southernmost section of the neighborhood. Please allow us, if you will, to direct your attention to 417 Callowhill St., a sizable property which runs from the middle of the block to the corner of 5th Street.
The property spans about an acre, with a one-story commercial building occupying about half the lot. This building is currently home to an outpatient nursing facility and an electrical supply company, with the balance of the property used as surface parking. As we’ve discussed, this area has generally been used for commercial and light industrial purposes for decades, and a one-story building was probably the highest and best use for the property for a long time.
But times are changing, and this section of Northern Liberties is seeing considerable interest from developers due to a combination of factors, including proximity to Center City, generally favorable zoning, and the fewer opportunities in other surrounding areas. The huge projects on 2nd Street are certainly going to change things when they start construction, likely in 2022, but projects like the 49-unit building under construction further north on 5th Street, next to the Target, also represent development forays into this untapped section of the city. The proposal for 5th & Callowhill will dwarf its neighbor to the north, however.
You can see, that’s a pretty significant upgrade. This project, from developer Neal Rodin, calls for 220 apartments over seven stories with 70 parking spots and no retail. It’s an interesting approach for this site, which sits farther south than the taller projects coming to 2nd Street, but will still offer considerable density on a large lot. You may recall, this developer is also planning another building nearby, a 12-story project with almost 400 units, planned at 5th & Spring Garden. For that project, which will sit on a much larger lot, the developer will be able to achieve greater height and density while still meeting the 3:10 parking requirement of the zoning district. Going bigger at 5th & Callowhill would probably prove impractical, due to the parking requirement and what we have to imagine is a strong desire to build the project by right.
Due to its location, we believe the building will interact with the surrounding neighborhood differently than the proposals to the east. At 5th Street, Callowhill spans four traffic lanes, compared to two lanes at 2nd Street. We expect that the 2nd Street projects will attempt to weave into the fabric between Old City and Northern Liberties and make 2nd Street a much friendlier path for pedestrians going between the neighborhoods. That will likely be a challenge at 5th Street, barring some major change to the streetscape of Callowhill. Even so, this project will be another big step for this area, and we’re already hearing buzz about other projects nearby that are in the pipeline. Those dominos are going to fall quickly here, it seems.