We've had an eye on the southwest corner of Broad & Ellsworth for years, wondering when and if this large vacant South Broad Street property would get filled in. You may remember, the adjacent Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine owns the property and has been looking to expand there for quite some time, but it's been a struggle to come up with a plan that makes sense. In 2014 they announced a plan for a one-story building with a big surface parking lot in the back and we were incredibly disappointed about such an underuse for such a prominent corner.

The plan from a couple years ago

We weren't alone in panning the project and thankfully, Saint Rita's got the message. Earlier this year, we told you that Saint Rita's would be partnering with Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to construct a new building that includes their desired new facility as well as dozens of affordable units for seniors. Over the summer, we shared some more details, noting that the plans called for a seven story building with 10K sqft of shrine-related use on the two bottom floors, 62 one-bedroom apartments on the five upper floors, and 8 parking spots. Cecil Baker + Partners did the design work, and we included a rendering with our story.

Rendering from the summer

In less than a couple weeks, this project will go to Civic Design Review. Thanks to their CDR submission, we've got some updated info on the project and some more details and renderings as well. The core of the project will still include the Cascia Center on the ground floor and affordable units above, but there have been some serious changes in terms of size and density which bear mentioning.

New rendering

Well, this is… worse. The previous iteration of the project rose almost to the height of the shrine next door, while the latest version chops off two stories and looks rather stubby by comparison. The red section of the building previously rose above the main massing of the building, creating some architectural interest, but now it appears that it's the same height as the rest of the building. You'll notice that two stories of glass have become one story of glass, clearly showing that the Cascia Center will only exist on the bottom floor, not on two floors as was the case in the previous version of the plan. A floor of apartments has also been nixed, reducing the unit count to 46. Here, check out some more images:

Site plan

View from Ellsworth St.

View of the plaza between the building and the shrine

We don't mean to be negative, as this project is light years ahead of the proposal from 2014. Affordable senior housing is a major need in Philadelphia, and this project will help many people that need a better place to live. Also, from what we understand, due to building code requirements, buildings between five and ten stories are generally prohibitively expensive to build, so perhaps it was never realistic to expect a seven story building here. So while it's tough to see the changes that have been made and feel as excited as we did over the summer, this project will still be a positive step for this corner and this stretch of South Broad Street. Here's to hoping construction gets moving next year.