Soko Lofts Would Transform Huge Lot in South Kensington

Last week, Philadelphia Business Journal broke the news that local developer Canus Corporation has big plans for a giant vacant lot at 2nd & Thompson, just a couple of blocks north of the Piazza. A former steel site, this lot measures about 2.5 acres and was originally tabbed by the same developer for a project with 160 condos and 16 artist studios. But the recession hit, and since the project fell by the wayside, it’s continued to sit vacant.

The lot
Crane building in the distance
From the north, it looks just as big

Now, Canus is proposing Soko Lofts, a 311-unit residential development that will also include 4-6 retail spaces. Last Wednesday, the developers presented their plans to a large crowd at the monthly South Kensington Community Partners zoning meeting. According to some meeting attendees kind enough to post on Philadelphia Speaks, the apartments will be rentals, with a .34 parking ratio. Soko Lofts will be constructed in two phases, with plans for groundbreaking for a building along 2nd Street and a building at the corner 2nd & Thompson later this year. Another building on American Street would follow afterwards.

Project will also include a public plaza at 2nd and American. Rendering from Plan Philly
Another rendering from Plan Philly

As you can see, the design evokes the Piazza, with residential units surrounding a large open space. Unlike the Piazza, this project isn’t intended to create a large public entertainment district, but instead a self-contained outdoor space for residents. It’s unclear whether non-residents will have limited access or no access to the interior courtyard, but it seems certain that the proposed space at 2nd & American will be usable for everyone.

Another rendering that shows the location of the buildings. This was on the public meeting flyer.

Obviously, this project is a very big deal for the area. According to Plan Philly, the community is going to make every effort to work with the developer to ensure the best possible project for their neighborhood. The largest initial concern seems to be about density, with worries that another 300-400 residents would fundamentally change the character of the neighborhood. Questions about parking (c’mon! it’s like two blocks from the El!), design, walkability, and other aspects of the project have come up as well, indicating that the specifics we’ve detailed and the renderings we’ve shown above are likely to change.

Still, it’s amazing news that this huge vacant lot seems poised to return to active use. Hopefully, the community and the developer will be able to reach mutually agreeable compromises, and this project will get off the ground posthaste. Looking forward to providing updates in the coming months.