Last week, Skyscraper Page’s resident skyscraper geeks dug something interesting out of a minor Philly Deals column in the Inquirer. A company named Broad Street Holdings LP is looking to build a supermarket, two parking levels, two residential towers, and 27 residential row homes at 1300 Fairmount Avenue, which, according to the Inquirer listing, the state calls a “pivotal knuckle” of North Broad Street, and New York developer RAL Companies & Affiliates LLC, who are behind the design of the mysterious project, says is “at the tipping point,” or close enough in redevelopment investment to justify the 860,000 square foot project.
In addition to these brief statements, three renderings for the project were unearthed, showing the alleged supermarket and two towers rising from the large site right behind the Divine Lorraine.
In the renderings, a supermarket with an attendant parking garage fronts Ridge Avenue, while a belt of row houses lies in the block bounded by 13th, Melon, Park, and Wallace Streets. Finally, at the corner of 13th Street and Fairmount Avenue proper, two midsize residential structures would be erected: a mid-rise building facing Fairmount, and a tower, about the same height as the Divine Lorraine, running parallel to its east face. A short part of Melon Street–between Ridge and Park Avenues–would also be erased in favor of the supermarket.
Located just a block away from the Broad Street Line’s Fairmount station, the project evokes Jonathan Rose Companies and Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha’s successful Paseo Verde project next to Temple University Station, but on a larger scale. It sits in a decidedly transitional neighborhood–two blocks away from at least two large new apartment buildings, but also the same distance from where the infamous Richard Allen Homes once stood.
It is difficult to attempt large-scale projects on North Broad Street. The street calls for higher densities than what is being built in the surrounding neighborhoods, but the financing is difficult to line up. Eric Blumenfeld, who owns the Divine Lorraine and Metropolitan Opera House, developed 600 North Broad and Lofts 640, and is currently working on Mural Lofts in the former Thaddeus Stevens Public School, has been going at a relatively sedate pace in large part for this reason.
To address the precarious financing climate of the area, Broad Street Holdings is seeking some $15 million in state funding for this project, which begs the question: who is Broad Street Holdings, anyway?
Based on the 9th floor of 275 Seventh Avenue in New York City, Broad Street Holdings bought the property from the City just prior to the beginning of 2014. The parcel’s assessed value is $6.3 million. Attempts to contact the development firm were unsuccessful.
The other name associated with the parcel New York City-based RAL Companies. Billing themselves as “Developers Without Limits,” the company boasts multiple conversion and new-construction projects–many of impressive density–in multiple markets like Colorado and Florida, but largely in New York City. Many of these projects are loft buildings in Tribeca, Williamsburg, Chelsea, and Union Square.
Despite multiple attempts at contacting RAL Companies about the alleged 1300 Fairmount project–specifically, parcel ownership details, why and how the project would justify state subsidy, and whether or not there was an interested tenant in the supermarket–no further information was forthcoming.
UPDATE: RAL Companies released this statement to the author on May 5th: “While the drawings pictured are very preliminary massing diagrams and there’s a long way to go in the process, we’re looking forward to continuing our work with community stakeholders, the City Council and the City administration to craft a fantastic mixed-use project for the North Broad Street corridor. Stay tuned.”