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11 developments in the works along the Schuylkill River

Posted on January 18, 2019

The past few years have seen a development boom along the banks of the Schuylkill River.

From projects surrounding Bartram’s Garden, and the bike trails, to apartments going up in Manayunk and Center City, to (of course) Schuylkill Yards, the river has seen a big change from just a few years ago.

Sure, it hasn’t seen as much as the Delaware River, which is anticipating at least 15 major projects over the next few years, but the buildings, paths, and bridges going up by the Schuylkill shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here are some of the most talked-about developments and projects planned or in process along the Schuylkill.

Featured rendering by SHOP Architects/West 8

1. Venice Island and The Locks

The development of Manayunk’s Venice Island has been a topic of discussion and debate for 20 years now. Developers wanted to build, but the land is prone to flooding, something that incited its fair share of controversy. After being tied up in the courts, Developer Carl Dranoff finally brought a project with 128 apartments to the island in 2007. Next came “The Isle,” another apartment project in 2016.

Finally, and most recently, there’s The Locks, a 63-unit town-home development that plans to wrap up in 2021, with homes that will reach nearly $900,000 apiece.

2. Ridge Flats

Located just a few steps from Kelly Drive and the banks of the river, this plan for a mixed-use residential and commercial development dubbed “Ridge Flats” has been in the works for a while now. The newest plans came in front of the Civic Design Review last month, and call for a five-story building with 135,000 square feet of space, 142 residential units, 11,000 square feet of commercial space (including a restaurant), and a green roof. The facade, which is a mix of brick, metal, and coral-colored panels, looks vastly different from the all-white exterior in the plan’s last iteration in 2016. It’s still in the design stage for now.

3. Riverwalk Towers

Right in the heart of much of the the Schuylkill River development, at 2301 JFK Boulevard, developer PMC is planning to build two skinny, glassy towers, side-by-side. One is a 28-story tower and the other will be 38 stories, but both will include residential units, parking, and ground-floor retail, according to plans presented at a Civic Design Review meeting a year ago. It’s unclear what’s happened on the project since then, and Gensler, the architecture firm, has been mum on its plans, declining to give more information when asked this summer.

4. 30th Street Station

Any avid traveler who’s stopped by the historic, art deco-heavy 30th Street Station lately has likely seen the scaffolding, especially on the west side of the building. The nearly 100-year-old station is undergoing a makeover, which includes facade restorations and several major interior and exterior renovations. In addition to its “public plaza” that surrounds the building, Amtrak plans to install an underground connection between the subway and the station, Those are just some of the extensive plans.

5. Schuylkill Yards

The Schuylkill Yards project, led by Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust, is a big one for the west side of the river. Last year, the partnership broke ground on the $3.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) project at 3001 Market Street. The project starts with Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre public space, which is still under construction, across the street from 30th Street Station. The next phase will see mixed-use towers constructed in the area, totaling nearly 7 million square feet in new development.

6. Aramark buildling

The once-vacant 650,000-square-foot building that sat in a prime location on the waterfront between Market Street and Chestnut, was snatched up by PMC and Lubert-Adler in 2014. The partnership planned to redevelop the 2400 Market building, turning it into Aramark’s new headquarters with green space, outdoor terraces, and a dining facility.

Since then, they’ve made serious headway. They plan to complete the building next month, when Aramark will occupy half of the redeveloped space, according to Philly Business Journal. New tenants will also include the Fitler Club, and possibly Hopsters, a Boston-based brewery.

7. One Riverside

The 22-story condo apartment building, One Riverside, wrapped up in May of 2017, bringing a modernist take to the banks of the Schuylkill. Designed by Cecil Baker, the structure keeps in the trend of bringing all-glass developments to the waterfront (much like the CHOP building, and the planned Riverwalk towers). The structure has access to Schuylkill River Park and Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. When it started leasing last year, the building was selling condos that ranged from $715,000 to $7 million apiece.

8. CHOP tower

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia took the headlines a few years ago, when they announced plans for a massive, glass expansion project at 700 Schuylkill Avenue, known as the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research. The 21-story skyscraper wrapped up construction in the spring of 2017, and it occupies 8.4 acres of land. It’s almost all glass, and has a curved exterior, as well as outdoor space and connection to the bike trail. As of late last year, the hospital had plans for three more buildings near the space—but they said the completion of those is likely 20 years down the road.

9. Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail expansion project is one of those projects that feels like it’s been going on for a while—but it’s making a lot of headway. The long bike and pedestrian train runs alongside the river, and Schuylkill River Development Corporation is working to develop it further south.

Most recently, the project was awarded a $12 million grant from the federal government, allowing them to close a gap between 34th and Christian streets, known as the Greys Ferry Crescent gap. They believe construction on that project will start by 2020.

10. Schuylkill River Swing Bridge

A small but significant addition to the banks will soon be the Schuylkill River swing bridge, which will bring a connection from Grey’s Ferry Crescent on the east side of the river, to Bartram’s Mile on the west side, filling a vital gap in the bike and pedestrian trail. The existing railroad bridge has been demolished ahead of plans to start construction on the swing bridge. They expect the construction will wrap up in 2020, Philly Record wrote.

11. Bartram’s Mile

It’s obviously not a building—like most of the structures on this list—but the opening of Bartram’s Mile marked an important change to the landscape of the riverbanks. The $6 million project broke ground on 2015, with plans to bring a trail connecting Bartram’s Garden to the neighborhoods surrounding it. It opened in the spring of 2017, and runs from the 56th Street Plaza to the future Schuylkill Crossing swing bridge.

The significance of the path is twofold. Before Bartram’s mile, people in Center City had an easy time getting to the popular and lush 45-acre garden, but it was difficult to access for those who lived right nearby. It also brings more maintained greenery to the banks of the river.


Original article by Anna Merriam for Curbed Philly. 

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