Updated: Center City diner to be torn down, replaced by luxury hotel

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill Thursday that would rezone a narrow block in Center City to allow for the development of a boutique 12-story Hudson Hotel.

The block is bounded by 16th and 17th, Chancellor and St. James streets. It is currently home to a parking garage and, on 17th Street, the staple Center City diner Little Pete’s, a nail salon, and a flower shop. Those buildings would apparently be demolished to make way for the hotel, according to representatives of Councilman Johnson’s office and the City Planning Commission.

A majority of City Council members will need to vote for the bill for it to be approved. Council frequently votes unanimously, following the lead of the district council member, and the ten district members virtually never vote against each other’s bills.

According to city records, the properties on the block are owned by “Philadelphia Chancellor LP,” registered with two different mailing addresses outside the city. One of the properties has a mailing address that matches one used by Sant Properties, a real estate company with a history of large campaign donations. (That link was shared with PlanPhilly, without further comment, by Ori Feibush, a Point Breeze developer who is challenging Johnson for the 2nd-District Council seat.)

The other, larger property that stretches to 17th Street has outstanding property-tax bills from 2011 to 2013 totaling more than $760,000, according to records.

Ron Patterson, an attorney who’s working on the zoning for the project, said that the entity developing the property is called Chancellor Hotels LLC and its sole partner is Stephen Pouppirt, the president of Clemens Construction. Patterson said that Sant Properties is not involved in the development.*

Ian Litwin, a Central District city planner, said that the hotel would include two stories of retail on 17th Street and a restaurant on the top floor. The owner of Little Pete’s said on Thursday that he was aware that developers have been hoping to build a hotel on the property for years, but that he hadn’t received any updates recently.

The hotel will contain 300 rooms and 40 executive suites, according to a press release from DAS Architects, which is designing the hotel.

The bulk of the property is now zoned CMX-4. Litwin explained that CMX-4 properties can be built up to a maximum Floor Area Ratio of 500 percent, meaning that a building taking up the entire area of the property could only be five stories tall. Changing the zoning to CMX-5 will allow the project to grow taller.

In addition, the zoning change exempts the property from the loading requirements in the CMX-5 zoning district. Litwin said that all the parking spaces at the hotel will be underground.

Clemens Construction presented the hotel plans to the Center City Residents Association earlier this month. In response, the CCRA sent a letter to Clemens saying that they should go through the routine Zoning Board of Adjustment process rather than seeking zoning relief through City Council. The community organization is in the process of formulating a policy to guide decisions like this in the future. In a draft, the group says that all developments should go through the zoning board except in “extraordinary circumstances” where a project has more public input than it the zoning process requires and the development serves a public purpose.

Ian Litwin said that the zoning change is not included in the Central District remapping recommendations, but that the Planning Commission staff is supporting the change. The Commission is working toward making changes to the CMX-4 zoning category to increase the maximum density allowed on those sites.

Ron Patterson said the group intends for the bill to be considered by the City Planning Commission at its November meeting and then to get a hearing in Council’s Rules Committee in early December and be approved by the end of the year.

The original Hudson Hotel is in Manhattan.

*Note: This article has been updated. After initially confirming that Sant Properties was a partner in the project, Ron Patterson later said that group has no involvement with the development.

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