Pennrose-led group chosen to develop sprawling city-owned site in Chinatown (4/10/17)

Source: Philly.com
Byline: Jacob Adelman
Date: 4/10/2017

A team led by the developer Pennrose has been selected to build a complex of dwelling units, offices, hotel rooms, and shops on the largest remaining parcel of municipally owned land in Center City.

The Pennrose-led group was chosen largely on the strength of its proposed architecture and site plan for the 3.2-acre lot at Chinatown’s eastern edge, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority executive director Gregory Heller said in an interview Monday.

Philadelphia-based Pennrose, which is partnering with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation on its proposal for the lot occupying most of the area bounded by Race Street and the Vine Street Expressway, between Eighth and Ninth Streets, was selected over a team led by Parkway Corp., also based in Philadelphia.

“We felt the design of [the Pennrose] proposal was much stronger,” Heller said. “The architecture was ambitious and really set the tone for how Philadelphia wants to develop.”

Heller said the Redevelopment Authority and other city agencies participating in the selection process also were impressed by the potential social and economic impact of the planned 160,000-square-foot office building for legal-aid organizations, to be called the Equal Justice Center.

The center’s aim is to consolidate dozens of legal-aid agencies now spread across the city into one building, to the benefit of public-service attorneys and their clients, according to the Bar Foundation.

Pennrose’s plan also entails an 11-story, 150-unit apartment tower; 55 units of affordable senior housing; a 147-room Comfort Inn hotel; and a 143-spot parking lot. Ground-floor retail is planned throughout the complex, which is being designed by the architecture firm WRT LLC of Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“We are certainly very honored to be working with” the Redevelopment Authority, Pennrose chairman and chief executive Richard K. Barnhart said.

Parkway’s proposal — designed by the Philadelphia architecture studio Cecil Baker + Partners — was planned in collaboration with the nonprofit Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. and senior-housing developer Presby’s Inspired Life.

It called for market-rate condo units, low-income senior housing, a hydroponic greenhouse, and an “intergenerational park” with playground equipment for kids, exercise stations for adults, and other features. Its ground-floor retail was to include a 20,000-square-foot Asian supermarket with a second-floor food court.

Pennrose and Parkway were the only companies to submit proposals for the site, large sections of which cannot be built on because of subway tunnels that run beneath it. The property also accommodates an entrance to the Chinatown station on the Broad-Ridge Spur of the Broad Street Subway.

The Redevelopment Authority’s board must approve the selection before the Pennrose team can acquire the site. Heller declined to specify the purchase price the group had bid but characterized it as an appropriate “market rate” proposal.

John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., said the selection of the rival team’s proposal was “a huge disappointment.”

As Chinatown’s main community organization, the PCDC will play a role in the project’s zoning process. Chin said he plans to use that leverage to push for a plan that fulfills Pennrose’s commitment to affordable housing and includes members of the existing community among the project’s residents and retail tenants.

Parkway president Robert Zuritsky did not immediately respond to a phone message.

Pennrose’s Barnhart said he looks forward to working with Chin’s group and others in the community.

“Collaboration is going to remain crucial in ensuring that this project ends up reflecting the community’s values and needs and aspirations,” he said.