Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Largest Philly Development Land Parcel on Market for Sale

by Joseph N. DiStefano Staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer

Commercial real estate broker CBRE Inc. is offering the former Frankford Chocolate factory, a 241,000 square foot brick complex on a 100,000 sf lot at 2101 Washington Ave., For Sale. "This is the largest piece of available development land in the city at the moment," CBRE's Robert Fahey says. Has Center City finally reached that old industrial strech of Washington? "It's the hottest residential neighborhood in the city for people of decent means who want to walk to work," Fahey insists.

The ex-factory's late owner, Vienamese immigrant turned New York low-rent hotelier Truong Vinh Tran, paid a modest $5.75 million for the property in 2007, and proposed a $100 million senior housing/medical/grocery mixed-use development centered on the city's Vietnamese community. Troung's project was scaled down and approved by the city, but languished in the recession; he died in 2012, leaving the project in litigation among his many descendants. At double the 2007 price -- say, $100/sf -- it could go for $12 million, Fahey says.

Truong's assets -- he was majority owner of Alphonse Hotel Corp. -- are being sold in liquidation, says lawyer Kevin Smith, at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which represents estate administrator Ernst Rosenberger, a retired judge. The estate has agreed to sell the Hotel Carter, Truong's flagship property, to Chetrit Organization of New York for a price Smith confirmed was "more than $175 million."

The Frankford Chocolate site is zoned I-2 and offers buyers a choice: "to convert the existing building into a residential use with commercial space while emphasizing the historic aspect, or demolish the building and start from the ground up," CBRE says. The brick heart of the complex dates to 1865 and may be eligible for federal Historic Investment Tax Credits.


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