Update: Just kidding, this story isn’t true at all. Happy April Fools everyone!
We here at Naked Philly have always been fascinated by skylines, with a particular focus on the skyline here in Philadelphia, ‘natch. It was an unforgettable experience seeing the spire of One Liberty pierce the invisible ceiling marked by William Penn’s hat, and we’ve been skyscraper nerds ever since. While proposals come and go, the one at 2401 Walnut St. – what was to be called Mandeville Place – always held a special spot in our heart amongst projects that we wished would have happened.
This gleaming tower from the Bedrock Group was meant to be a residential addition to the Rosenbluth building at the corner of 24th & Walnut, which was famous in its own right as the headquarters of the eponymous travel agency that went from a small operation to one of the biggest agencies in the country. This residential tower never came to be thanks to that pesky massive recession back in 2008, but we’ve always pined for something to eventually rise in its place. As you can see below, the site sits today as low-rise building plus a surface parking lot close to the Schuylkill River trail.
We hadn’t heard anything about this site for years, save for a refresh of the existing building several years back. But after talking to some folks after Thursday night’s CCRA meeting for a tall, slender tower at 19th & Chestnut, we were excited to learn that something is indeed afoot at 24th & Walnut. One of those people were kind enough to share marketing materials for something called “The ROSE,” and the slightly fuzzy rendering certainly caught our attention.
So we made some calls and finally tracked down a higher-resolution version of this absolutely incredible new proposal for the western edge of the Rittenhouse neighborhood. Yowza.
A 1,400-foot (!), mixed-use tower is being pitched for the site, which would ultimately involve the demolition of the former Rosenbluth HQ, which is not listed on the local historic register. As a tribute to the ground-breaking businessman however, the Ambit Architecture-designed concept will be named The ROSE, and will consist of lower-level office space, a hotel on the middle floors, and apartments at the top of the tower. At this point, we aren’t sure whether these would be rentals or condos.
Whatever the use, the upper units will possess the best views in town, with the top of the building rising almost three-hundred feet above the Comcast Technology Center to the east. Along with the views, the future residents of the ROSE will live in the most prominent architectural landmark on our skyline. Even recognizing the forced perspective of the rendering, this thing is gonna be huge.
Property records don’t show any signs of a transaction, but if a recent leasing listing is any indication, a pivot for the site appears to be in the cards. Perhaps we’re looking at a ground-lease situation that would allow for long-term control over the site without a change in ownership, which we’ve more commonly seen for publicly owned parcels in Philadelphia, but is a more frequent approach in other cities. Or maybe the developers are still in a contingency contract period as they work their way through entitlements. While we ponder the exact mechanics of how this will proceed, let’s take a little trip back around the site to wrap our heads around this incredible change.
Unfortunately, this building will loom over newer low-rise residential projects nearby. Remember, we visited a pair of huge, high-end townhome projects last year, and progress has been steady since then. With these multimillion-dollar homes sprouting in this area, a tower like this would be a radically different look, but one that makes sense at the location.
A similarly tall tower was pitched just across the river as part of the long-term 30th Street District Plan, but a tower even closer to Center City makes just as much sense, recognizing that many things will need to fall into place before things can move forward. Until then, we’ll be dreaming nightly of the day that Philadelphia’s newest tallest building gets topped off… perhaps right around that semiquincentennial that’s a little over three years away?