The parcel at 500 S. Broad St. encompasses most of the block between S. Broad, 15th, Lombard & South Streets, save for a few row homes at the northwest corner. This block is best known as home to the a large surface parking lot, the former World Communications Charter School, and the historically designated former Health Center No. 1. You may recall, the latter building was put up for sale by the city in 2019. After nearly 30 developers expressed interest in the property, the City selected a partnership consisting of the Goldenberg Group, the Badger Group and Harvey and Robert Spear of E-Z Park fame to redevelop the site. This made some sense, as Goldenberg purchased the former school in 2018, allowing for a significant consolidation at this desirable location.
Initial plans came around in 2019, but they were far from set in stone, with a focus on a mixed-use, 24-hour type environment. Also mentioned was a programming partnership with the University of the Arts that would include some element of student housing. We didn’t get to see much, but we did have some preliminary renderings from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to give us a tease of what was to come.
Things went quiet for a couple of years, as we suspect progress was slowed due to the pandemic. But we’ve seen some hints over the last year or so that give us confidence that things are happening here, albeit slowly. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported in February 2021 that while delayed, plans were indeed still moving forward. In fact, we even got a bit more information specifying “a dynamic mixed-use development that includes residential, student housing, hospitality, restaurants and grocery,” according to a statement from the Goldenberg Group. This seemed like a fairly confident and factual statement, especially given how hospitality programming was only “likely” at the initial announcement.
Coincidentally (or not?), Virgin Hotels issued a press release earlier that same February publicizing their new 2021 openings. Buried in the very last sentence was this highly intriguing statement: “Virgin Hotels continues to explore hotel and office conversions and ground-up development in Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle, and London.” Well, isn’t that interesting, especially seeing Philly as the lead city. Having lost out on an SLS Hotel when plans shifted for the Arthaus condo tower, we always thought that a shmancy hotel would be an exciting fit for South Broad.
So why do we keep going on about hotels? Are we experiencing a Broad Street fever dream? Well not entirely, because according to some renderings we stumbled upon on the Badger Group’s website, it appears that Virgin Hotels may be eying the very lot we’ve been discussing. Without further ado, check out the renderings below for Broad & South, with design again brought to you by SOM.
If something resembling these renderings is actually realized at this location, it would be an absolute game-changer for South Broad Street. We’re still short on most of the details, but the size and scale of the project reflected in the renderings, along with the projected $450M price tag, gives us the vibe that this could be a project that makes a generational change to the area. Stay tuned on this property, as there’s surely more to come – but at the very least for now, it’s looking like a shiny new hotel is on the horizon for the Avenue of the Arts.
Update that seems important: A commenter reminded us that Whole Foods will be moving out of their digs on the 900 block of South Street and into a brand new space in this project. Just in case you weren’t already excited about this development.
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