The Philaphilia blog (now hosted at City Paper) always entertains with depressing stories about awesome projects that keep getting spiked by NIMBY opposition. A Philly Republican Party worth supporting would take the center-right position favoring strong property rights seriously, and insist on as-of-right building permissions for most parcels – i.e. no political approval necessary to build more housing. Let people do what they want with their own property.
Here is a story about why one vacant lot is still empty:
Penn Mutual let the grass lot sit there until they sold their towers along with the empty lot in 1997 to the Dallas-based Lincoln Property company. Lincoln also sat on the land all the way up until selling the property to the NYC-based Broadway Real Estate Partners in August of 2003. Broadway saw the potential in the lot so they sold it to a small developer in 2004 with an agreement NOT to oppose any building they propose, as long as it didn’t affect business in the old Penn Mutual Towers. That small-time developer then flipped the property over to the infamous developer CREI in 2005.
CREI, who at the time was proposing no less than eight funky-ass condo and hotel projects throughout the city, proposed a 26-story super-modern condo tower designed by Cecil Baker’s firm.
Once they saw the proposal, Broadway flipped their shit, despite their agreement. In an unusual move, an office tower became the biggest NIMBY in opposition of a tall residential building. Broadway’s folks assumed that any proposal for the land would stick to zoning code, which called for a 250 footer. This one would be 320 feet. They engaged in an epic zoning battle with CREI to put a stop to the condo tower, claiming it would fuck up their rentals of east-facing office space.
The problems delayed the building until CREI put a hold on all but three of their projects in the fall of 2006, even though the condo tower eventually got approved. In 2009, CREI’s backer, Abington Bank of Jenkintown, foreclosed on all their shit, including the Useless Gross Grass Lot. They are now its current owners. Ever since, the lot has been on the market for $15 million, the sale being managed by BIU Properties, who seems to be selling all of CREI’s old crap. It might have a better chance of selling if they put a “For Sale” sign up.
This lot is still fully approved for a 20-plus-story building. Once the economy finally gets its shit together, someone needs to come along and build the fuck out of something big here. Here’s a goofy-looking rendering from 2005 when that small developer was trying to sell the land. Go ahead, build it!