The Cira Centre stands as one of the few tall buildings in University City, separated from the Center City skyline by the Schuylkill River. But it may soon have company in the form of Cira Centre South.

Cira Centre

Attorneys for developers Brandywine Realty Trust presented informal plans to individuals in the development division of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) last week, according to executive director Gary Jastrzab. He said those plans contained errors and were incomplete.

Cira Centre South rendering

“I can’t comment,” said Steve Rush, director of leasing at Brandywine.

“For all intents and purposes, our development division has not really seen the plans in any official capacity,” said Jastrzab.

A source, however, told Naked Philly that employees at the Cira Centre have seen presentations about Cira Centre South this summer, revealing plans to break ground on a tower fronting Chestnut Street as early as this fall. The Walnut Street tower will ostensibly come next.

Chestnut Street frontage, today

Walnut Street side. X marks the spot

Before that can happen, developers will have to present their plans to the PCPC in two separate meetings, according to Jastrzab. The first will be for information only, after which commission members will review and comment on the plans before they are later presented again for a vote.

The original plans for Cira Centre South, released in 2007, involved two towers and a parking garage between 29th, 30th, Walnut, and Chestnut Streets. The proposed Chestnut Street tower was to have 300K sqft of apartment space with a possible 7K sq ft of retail use. The much taller Walnut Street tower was to have 500K sqft of office space, 12K sqft of retail and restaurant space, a 225 room hotel, and 50 condo units. The parking garage, which has already been constructed, is home to retail on 30th Street and the offices for the Schuylkill River Devlopment Corporation. As you can see from the renderings below, the plans for this project have evolved since they were originally released five years ago.

Older rendering

Newer rendering, with smaller tower on Walnut Street. Also, now it's sunset.

With a projected cost of $520M and the rough economic times since 2007, it’s not such a shock that only the garage has been built thus far. The entire project is planned within the area prescribed in the Keystone Opportunity Zone Program, which provides various tax benefits.

Cira Centre South will be part of the changing face on the other side of the Schuylkill. It seems likely that in the next few decades, additional vertical buildings will stretch across the eastern side of University City. With Penn and Drexel continually expanding, and less land available to satisfy the hunger for more space, building higher could become the only option. It will certainly bear watching in the years to come.

–Lou Mancinelli