After watching the future MVP drop a 52 piece to beat the rival Boston Celtics last night, we surprisingly found ourselves having flashbacks to a younger, goofier Joel Hans Embiid. While the Sixers were diving headfirst into The Process, our injured superstar was playfully tweeting at Rihanna, creating a year’s long back-and-forth. While the big man is now a dad and has moved on from RiRi, one of the singer’s anthems inspired us to search for development in a hopeless place.

When we think of “hopeless” and “development” in Philadelphia terms, the Delaware River Waterfront, with its many pie-in-the-sky proposals over the years, is one location that jumps to mind. We stopped by many waterfront development sites earlier this year, but we decided to dig a little deeper, just as our fearless center did, to see if we could find some signs of life for some long-dormant properties. To our delight, we discovered some information on two projects that makes us think that they may yet again rear their heads some day in the future.

A look at Pier 34 on the southern end of the site

Our first stop takes us to 735 S. Columbus Blvd., where there was a tragic nightclub accident many years back. In 2018, plans were pitched for a large mixed-use project from Ensemble Real Estate and designed by Digsau. This project would include a 308-unit residential tower, a new retail building, and a public space built over the pier. We hadn’t heard anything whatsoever about this since 2018, but after some digging, it appears that things have been in the works in the background. While there have been no recent sales and there are no new zoning notices, an application to work on the piers was submitted two years ago to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. There were no signs of activity when we visited, but we are cautiously optimistic that things are still in the works.

A rendering of the project shows the tower and public space as viewed from the river
A rendering of the public space on the south side of the site
The current view of the lot from the corner of Delaware & Fairmount Ave.
An aerial rendering shows the narrow building along Delaware Ave.

Jumping north to 626 N. Delaware Ave., another tower has been on hold since 2018. This site, just north of a gas station and south of Fairmount Ave. along an exploding development corridor, is owned by the DeSimone Auto Group, who have plans for something we’ve never seen before. 96 units would rise here over 15 floors, with a built-in car dealership making up the commercial component on the lower levels of the project. Designs from CosciaMoos show yet another modern structure, with zoning permits for construction being issued back in Summer 2020. However, upon revisting the plans, it appears that zoning updates to remove the cellar were stamped as of this past summer, so it appears here as well that there is still an eye towards developing this intriguing site.

A rendering of the project from Delaware Ave.

Will one of these projects happen? Both? Neither? We honestly couldn’t tell you, especially given the paucity of zoning details and the interesting times we’re in from a banking perspective. It seems as if these are moving forward ever so slowly, but as some of the empty lots along the river can attest, nothing is certain until it’s built. In the meantime, there are still over 1,500+ units under construction close by and work has just begun on the Park at Penn’s Landing, so perhaps these two projects will join the fold soon enough. And as we can learn from our #21, sometimes greatness takes a little longer to acheive than first planned.