Monday, April 17, 2017

Redevelopment Authority makes pick for Chinatown's 8th and Vine development site

by Natalie Kostelni Reporter Philadelphia Business Journal

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has selected a team that involves Pennrose Properties and EZ Park to buy and develop a highly visible site at 8th and Vine streets into a mixed-use project that pitted developers and their respective visions for the property against each other.

“We’re definitely deeply honored to be selected,” said Richard K. Barnhart, chairman and CEO of Pennrose Properties, which will lead the development that includes the construction of the Philadelphia Bar Association's Equal Justice Center.

The site sits in an area of Philadelphia referred to as Chintatown North, which has expanded the boundaries of Chinatown beyond Vine Street. It’s an area that was once overlooked by developers, even those from Chinatown, but has gained more attention from investors in recent years and will continue Chinatown's expansion northward.

The redevelopment authority put out a request for proposals for the site last fall and both bids were backed by experienced developers. Despite that, it was a contentious process.

The process ended up putting a proposal that involved the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. and its partner, Parkway Corp., against a plan that involved the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and the long-time operator of what is now a surface lot. Some observers predicted Parkway was a shoo-in because it has done a handful of PRA-controlled sites in Chinatown already and was experienced with the government agency.

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association, was hoping its plan would prevail and it did. With Pennrose and EZ Park as partners, the Bar Association proposal laid out the building of a $40 million mixed-use project that would house more than 20 legal nonprofits.

The proposed 160,000-square-foot building — which the bar association is calling the Equal Justice Center — is envisioned to be eight to 14 stories when completed. The plan also calls for 55 affordable housing units for senior citizens, another building containing market rate rentals, a small hotel (rumored to be a Comfort Inn), retail space and 181-space parking lot.
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