Pennrose Properties has been chosen to develop a long vacant lot most visible at Eighth and Race Streets, known as 800 Vine Street. Pennrose had submitted a plan after the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority had issued a Request for Proposals last year to redevelop the site, which is owned and managed by the PRA. The site has a large surface parking lot right now and is located between Chinatown and Old City, around the corner from the National Constitution Center and Franklin Square Park. A subway station for the Broad/Ridge Spur is at the corner of Eighth and Race. Pennrose was chosen over Parkway Corporation, which also submitted a proposal. The decision was made by a committee, which included PRA officials, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation officials, Office of Housing and Community Development officials, and members of local community groups. The committee had several criteria in which to create a “social impact scoring factor”, including design quality, economic feasibility, development team experience, and social impact. Pennrose’s plan is designed by Wallace, Roberts, and Todd and the development team includes neighborhood-based United Development, EZ Park, and the Philadelphia Legal Aid Association. The committee chose the Pennrose plan based on the strength of its architecture.
Pennrose’s plan would build four buildings and have quite a bit of open space. A subway runs underneath the site and cannot be built upon, so the plan would put the four buildings along the site edge and have public space, and some surface parking, in the middle of the site. The designers would like to “activate the edges” of the site, along Race, Vine, Eighth, and Ninth Streets. The tallest building would be on Race Street and would be used by the Legal Aid Association, and 25 affiliated legal aid agencies, as an “Equal Justice Center”. The Equal Justice Center would be a central location for legal aid services in Philadelphia. The building would be 14 stories tall and would have an angular design. The Equal Justice Center would serve 40,000 clients per year and employ 300 people, in a 160,000 square foot building. The building will have a community center, retail spaces along Race Street, and a green roof. Another highrise building would be on Eighth Street and would be eleven stories. That building would be residential and have 160 rental apartment units, including studios, one bedroom units, and two bedroom units. The one bedroom units would rent for approximately $1,500 per month and the two bedroom units would rent for approximately $2,200 per month. The building would have retail on Eighth Street and a green roof, and would be wedge-shaped to avoid being over the subway tunnel.
There will be a nine-story building for senior housing along Vine Street. That building will have 55 to 65 units, as well as, retail space and another green roof. Finally, there will be a Comfort Inn hotel at Ninth and Vine Streets, in an eight-story building. It will have 147 guest rooms, more retail (probably a restaurant), another green roof, and would likely employ about 80 people. In all, this development would have 32,000 square feet of open space, with trees and benches and regular events, 150 parking spaces (mostly behind the hotel), 16,000 square feet of green roofs, and 20,000 square feet of retail space. The developers expect to break ground by late 2018.
This redevelopment of a long underutilized site in Center City will have a profound impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. It will provide significant retail and open space, and another hotel, in-between two of Center City’s most noteworthy neighborhoods and around the corner from the Independence Mall. It activates a long dead area of Center City, where there were too many parking lots and two underused subway stations (the Franklin Square PATCO station has been closed for decades, but may be reopened soon). It, also, has the potential to encourage more development north of the Vine Street Expressway, where there are several vacant industrial buildings and more parking lots. And, it serves as an architecturally significant gateway into the city, as well as Center City and Chinatown, because of the nearby off ramp from the Vine Street Expressway, which is the approach to the Ben Franklin Bridge.
By, Gabriel Gottlieb