In the early 1990s, 1201 W. Girard Ave. was a large vacant lot, located on the edge of the Yorktown neighborhood and several blocks from anything associated with Temple University. The property had been sitting vacant for decades, but old zoning plans indicate that there was an idea to build a small shopping center on this acre-sized parcel, anchored by a Rite Aid. By the mid-90s, the shopping center concept was struck, but a Rite Aid still appeared, sans any neighboring businesses. The Rite Aid, which still stands today, sits on the easternmost section of the property, and a surface parking lot covers the rest of the parcel.
For about two decades, this was probably the highest and best use for this property- but things have changed significantly in this area and that’s just no longer the case. North Broad Street is one of the biggest sources of large-scale development in Philadelphia, with numerous projects adding a few thousand units over the last half decade and looking forward into the near future. Temple has grown tremendously along North Broad, with several developments from the university combining with projects from private developers changing the face of the campus. As we mentioned a couple days ago, Broad & Girard is becoming a kind of nexus in this part of town, with numerous developments projecting in every direction from this intersection. Looking east, the renovation of the Quaker storage building at 8th Street and a mixed-use project at 10th & Girard clearly show that this section of Girard can now do better than a standalone pharmacy.
You can surely see where this is going. Developers have purchased the Rite Aid property at 12th & Girard and will be redeveloping it in short order. The pharmacy will close in the next couple months and the building will be demoed, with plans calling for a four-story replacement with 168 apartments and 31 parking spots. Despite the close proximity to Temple, this won’t be a student housing building per se, with all the units designed as junior one bedrooms and not dorm-style apartments. Sure, some students could end up living here, but we’d guess it’ll lean more toward young professionals that want to live near North Broad Street, a concept that would have seemed inconceivable in this area even a handful of years ago.
Perhaps you might have expected a different type of building here, with a little more height or maybe some ground-floor retail? We agree, that would seem intuitive. Curiously, the property is zoned for multi-family use, which forecloses on both of those possibilities without a variance from the ZBA. The height limit, thanks to a zoning bonus, is capped at 45′. Commercial use is expressly forbidden. We’d think that a CMX-3 zoning designation would have made more sense for this property, as it would have allowed for a taller building and also permitted retail. But as we’ve seen many times before, the zoning map is what it is, and a reluctance to take on the risk of a trip to the ZBA often dictates project design in Philadelphia. This is again the case here, where we’re absolutely getting an upgrade, but could have seen something different, but for the underlying zoning.
Disclosure: An affiliate of OCF Realty is the developer for this project. OCF Realty is the parent company of Naked Philly.