In a city that’s hilariously lacking in downtown cinemas, the small and artsy Ritz Five at 220 Walnut St. is somehow one of the best we’ve got. If we’re to give the matter some thought though, we come to the conclusion that a one story movie theater isn’t exactly the best use for a 15K sqft parcel in Society Hill. And at least one developer out there agrees with that sentiment.
A couple weeks ago, developer Tom Scannapieco appeared before a crowd of roughly a hundred people at a Society Hill Civic Association meeting to present plans to demolish the Ritz Five and replace it with a high rise condo building. And Scannapieco knows a thing or two about this kind of project, as he previously built 1709 Rittenhouse and is now in the home stretch nearby at 500 Walnut. The plan calls for something very similar to 500 Walnut, with between 30 and 50 units that would be among the priciest in town on a per square foot basis. According to a story from Philadelphia Free Press, the project would also include the adjacent Nelson Building, which would get renovated into a lower rise use. Per a thread on Skyscraperpage, the theater would move from its current location to new digs inside a renovated Nelson Building. We don’t quite know how that would work, but it sounds great.
This plan is far from finalized, with the Nelson building under agreement and the Ritz building still being negotiated. Also, we suspect the developer will need to work with the community over the next few months to come up with a plan that neighbors can get behind, as we believe this project will require a variance or two. Still, given the remarkable success of 500 Walnut, with units starting at $8M, we think the developer will do absolutely everything in his power to make this project a reality. And if it ends up coming to pass, we wonder when someone will get around to redeveloping the Positano Coast building across the street.
Even more than the Ritz building, this place has always struck us as underused and a location ripe for redevelopment. Hey, it could be next on the “dock”et. Get it? Because it’s on Dock Street? Ah, forget it.