A new 304-unit apartment building is proposed just off Market Street in Center City at 21st and Ludlow streets. It is replacing a surface parking lot east of the Mütter Museum.
The tower is the work of Parkway Corp., a local real estate and parking company that builds on many of the surface lots it owns.
The company is focusing much of its development energy near the western edge of Center City. He is building an office tower for Morgan Lewis in 2222 market street and has proposed another, at 20th and Arch streetsthat he hopes to build for an unidentified tenant, long rumored be the international insurance company Chubb Ltd.
“[This part of town] it was always a little bit fringe… but now it’s becoming much more central,” said Robert Zuritsky, Parkway’s president and CEO. “It’s really a no-brainer, so close to 30th street [Station]Rittenhouse and the Parkway Museums”.
The new building would have 31 floors, with two floors of underground parking: 109 for cars and 104 for bicycles. The mix of units includes studios, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, as well as two-story units with considerable outdoor space.
“[These] they are two-story houses that have their own backyard,” Scott Erdy, director of Erdy McHenry Architecture, said in a presentation to the Center City Residents Association (CCRA). “A young family can really have outdoor space immediately adjacent to their apartment.”
To complete this project, which is designed more densely than the underlying zoning would normally allow, Parkway is getting creative.
In exchange for permission to build, Parkway would provide public space, minimize the building’s carbon footprint, offer public art, build underground parking, and offer 31 units at 60% of the area median income. These units would be affordable to those earning more than $50,000 for a two-member household (rent about $1,423 a month) and more than $63,000 for a four-member household (rent $1,834 a month). The affordability provisions would have to remain in place for 50 years.
East “mixed interest housing zoning bond” was created in its current form in 2018 and allows developers to build taller, denser buildings if they help combat the city’s affordable housing crisis. This can be done by contributing money to the city’s housing trust fund, which can be spent on projects throughout the city, or if they include affordable units in their buildings.
Most developers have decided to contribute to the trust fund and avoid including affordable units in its buildings, even though the income limits are priced well above what Philadelphia’s poorest residents can afford.
Last year, the City Council changed the law to encourage developers to build affordable units on the site, in an effort to bring more economic and racial diversity to affluent parts of the city. The Parkway project at Ludlow and 21st is one of the first large-scale projects to make use of the new rules.
Parkway is also making use of a zoning bonus that allows for higher density in exchange for public space, which in this case takes the form of a 5,500-square-foot room on the second floor that would be accessible to all. This area would have a dedicated street entrance and offer public art and Mural Arts programming, a co-working space, restrooms available to the public, and an outdoor terrace.
The neighborhood association is largely supportive of the project, and representatives say they have negotiated a community benefits agreement with Parkway.
But the neighborhood group is concerned that the public space could become a de facto shelter for the homeless.
“We welcome public spaces, and we’re talking about art exhibits and places for people to come as a work space and have events for children,” said Richard Gross, president of the CCRA. “Public space should not be configured as a shelter or place of welcome for the homeless population, but should be used and made available to the community in general.”
CCRA and Parkway continue to negotiate on the building, as they have on many other projects over the years, and discussions are expected to continue in the coming weeks. The project will also be subject to the Civic Design Review, which allows a city-appointed panel of experts to offer advice on major developments.
For his part, Zuritsky says that this project is one more example of the city’s potential. Although he has long criticized Philadelphia’s high parking taxes, he is on a building spree as the Parkway finds higher-yielding uses for its property.
“I’ve criticized some of the policies and taxes, but I think Philly has incredible momentum,” Zuritsky said. “We are a city that likes to wring its hands and say, oh why aren’t we better off, this is wrong, what are we going to do about it? And we have some challenges. But Philly has to start thinking of itself as a winner.”