Deja vu – developer wanted for old Rivage Grand Ballroom site

A long-dormant property on a high-visibility East Falls site could soon come back into play.

The city Redevelopment Authority will make another go at revitalizing the vacant Rivage Grand Ballroom site, at the corner of Ridge Avenue and Calumet Street, after last trying in 2007. The agency is preparing to release a request for proposals within 30 days for a mixed-use development on the property, which the city has owned since 2000, said Bennur Koksuz, RDA’s director of development.

Once the RFP is issued, the agency would expect to select a project and developer within six months, she said. Work crews have been out at the 1.6-acre site at 4324 Ridge Ave. across from the Falls Bridge sprucing it up in recent weeks.

In the last go-round for the Rivage site, in late 2007, a project called East Village was to be created by developer David Stubbs and Ball Street Partners, which includes former NBA player Christian Laettner. East Village would have included 173 residential units, 10,000 sq. ft. of retail, and a 3-level indoor parking garage.

East Village eventually stalled in the tight financial market, though some improvements were made to the site such as the installation of a turning lane off Calumet Street, said Gina Snyder, the executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation.

The location has remained a prime target for redevelopment, and Snyder said her group would aggressively market it this time around as well.

“For the past couple of years, there has been somewhat of a reluctance to put the property out for development when the economy was not so healthy,” Snyder said. “There are people very interested in the site, and the Redevelopment Authority knows that it has a very important and valuable site there.”

Several community controls on the property came out of the last effort, and any new developer would also need to conform to them, Snyder said. They include first-floor retail, no setbacks from the sidewalk, no curb cut on Kelly Drive, and the installation of on-street parking in front of whatever is built.

Nearby the Rivage site, in the intersection of Kelly Drive and Midvale Avenue, the EFDC will install a pedestrian island with a lighted decorative sign announcing EAST FALLS. That project went out to bid in January, and is one of the last pieces of a multi-year public improvement plan near the Schuylkill waterfront in East Falls.

The island would provide a visual gateway to East Falls, and make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the busy intersection, and provide some traffic controls.

“You can cross Midvale knowing that you have the pedestrian island in the middle and you won’t have traffic coming at you from both directions,” she said. Snyder said she expects a contract for that project to be awarded within weeks.

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