Every great city has one park that's held above all others. Central Park seemed to set the bar, and although Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square was laid out a century and a half earlier, the architecture that surrounds it is clearly Philadelphia's Manhattan.
It's missing one thing, though: a lack of vacant lots. In its northwest corner is a fenced off parcel with a rogue portrait of a cow facing its green meadow. It's blight. And it's blight that sits on what is likely the most valuable piece of property in Center City.
Don't ask me what was once there. Locals have their folklore about the site. It was a mansion. No, row homes. Maybe an apartment building? I can't find information on its history. If you remember what was there, feel free to comment below. I'm curious.
But I'm even more curious why 10 Rittenhouse and Anthropologie were allowed to hollow-out two historic buildings for what amounts to a numeric address, while 1900 Walnut has been passed around to global developers like an aging Vegas prostitute.
At the edge of the condo boom in 2007 it was purchased by Ireland's Castleway Properties. A few years ago Toll Brothers expressed an interest in building a McSkyscraper on the site. Just kidding. Toll Brothers, largely mocked for their neoclassical suburban monstrosities, has actually managed to pull off some handsome, urban projects.
For whatever reason, they lost interest in 1900 Walnut and we once again forgot it was there.
Rumors started filling up the message boards when workers were seen drilling on the L-shaped lot last week. And BizJournals.com has the answer.
Southern Land of Nashville has agreed to purchase the land for $30M, $40M is it can negotiate the right to build something denser than current zoning allows.
While that sounds hopeful, BizJournal is repotting that Southern Land is shopping around for a partner to throw in 90% of the development cost. So unless someone's ready foot most of the bill for this ambitious project, Southern Land might just be the developer babysitting this mysteriously vacant lot.
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