When Philadelphia really began to turn around in the 1990’s under then Mayor Ed Rendell, emphasis was put on South Broad Street. The thoroughfare was given the title “Avenue of the Arts” to spur cultural interest and development. The rest is history. South Broad St. and its surrounding neighborhoods have boomed over the last several decades with new condo towers, restaurants, street beautification, the construction of The Kimmel Center, and other neighborhood revitalization efforts.
North Broad Street, on the other hand, did not receive the attention and investment that its southern counterpart experienced during the Rendell and Street years. That has all changed in the last decade and even more so in the last five years. We have seen the revitalization of the Divine Lorraine and the Metropolitan Opera House along with the erection of new mid and high-rise mixed-use buildings. Fairmount, the Spring Arts District, Brewerytown, Francisville, and Templetown have all seen dramatic improvements and investments. This is North Broad Street’s time to shine, and we believe it is only the beginning of its heyday.
There are multiple significant projects in the pipeline for North Broad Street. One of the projects that we believe will be the most impactful was recently proposed. Eric Blumenfeld, the developer behind the Divine Lorraine and The Met, released plans for a 30-story, 363-foot tall, 290-unit mixed-use tower on the northeast corner of Broad and Spring Garden. The development will include 75,000 square feet of commercial space, 24 on-site parking spots (with another 67 off-site), and 107 bike spaces. The tower will have ground floor retail as well as 5 levels of commercial space with a pool and outdoor terrace on the 4th floor. We believe these upper levels of commercial space are planned to be a fitness center. Another detached, one-story structure will include a restaurant space. A landscaped courtyard will separate the two new buildings. The plaza will be called Common Ground, inspired by Meg Saligman’s beautiful Common Threads mural on the side of the 60-unit Mural Lofts building next door. Blumenfeld converted the Thaddeus Stevens School into the Mural Lofts in 2016.
The new tower will rise on a 23,775 square foot surface parking lot that is zoned CMX-4 and sits within a qualified opportunity zone. The site is actually still legally connected to the Mural Lofts parcel and will need to be subdivided. The development team went before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on June 26th seeking variances to move the project forward, but the hearing was continued to August 14th. Blumenfeld stated that he had wished to break ground in July, so the ZBA hearing results have thrown a wrench in those plans.
We really hope that this project proceeds quickly. It will be another link in the chain that is a revitalized North Broad Street. The northern side of the intersection of Broad and Spring Garden is currently dominated by humungous surface parking lots. It will be good to see at least one of them perish (the proposal from a few years ago for the other lot across Broad St. seems to have stalled). The height of this tower should extend the Philadelphia skyline northward and the building should be visible from many vantage points throughout the city. The residential density this project brings along the Broad Street Line will provide attractive housing options for commuters who work in Center City. The inclusion of retail and public spaces should also make this stretch more inviting to pedestrians and passersby. Ground could not be broken soon enough.
How do you feel about this project? Do you think the design of the tower is attractive? Are you glad that the iconic mural will remain visible?