Wanted: Developers for two of Old City’s last undeveloped pieces of waterfront real estate

Delaware River Waterfront Corp. has opened request for proposals for two prime sites by the river, next to the future Penn’s Landing Park.

(Courtesy of DRWC)

(Courtesy of DRWC)

One of the hottest real estate projects in town is open for business.

With the Park at Penn’s Landing entering its final design phase, the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. is ready to take proposals from private developers for two Old City parcels totaling a bit more than 11 acres at the edge of the river.

“It’s amazingly exciting,” said Joe Forkin, president of the DRWC. “This is one of the last center sections of large-format lands available for development on the waterfront.”

The so-called “Market Street site” is about 7 1/2 acres between Market and Chestnut streets. The “Marina Basin site” is almost four acres and is located between Spruce and Lombard street. The vision is to transform both sites, currently used as parking lots or for seasonal activities, into top-notch mixed-use buildings with housing, hotels, and ground-floor retail and restaurants framing the marina and the river side.

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Forkin said development of both sites represents a very important step in the Master Plan for the Central Delaware — adopted in 2012, with an initial design released in 2014 — that reimagines the waterfront as an accessible, walkable, vibrant public space integrated into the city. He said there is no exact amount for the value of the developments yet. The park’s construction has an estimated cost of $225 million.

“One of the things that came out of the master plan and the feasibility study is that the best way to really ensure that this civic-cultural space feels connected to the city and not isolated from the city, cut off [by] the highway, is to ensure that there are people living there, using retail, restaurants, and other commercial uses there,” said Lizzie Woods, DRWC’s vice president for planning and capital programs.

The request for proposals envisions the Marina Basin site developed at a low- to mid-rise height and primarily residential, with a design that “complements the “character, scale and form” of neighboring Society Hill. The Market Street site is defined as a larger mixed-used development, mostly residential with some hotel and entertainment uses, mid- to high-rise in height.

Both sites can accommodate multiple buildings, with the aim of maintaining view corridors to the river from the city, public access to the waterfront, and a public esplanade along the water’s edge.

“Architecturally, the developments should merit the honor of being the backdrop of endless photos and postcards,” the RFP reads.

Given that both sites are susceptible to potential future flooding due to projected sea level rise, Woods said developments would have to be sensitive and responsive to climate-change effects and floodplain regulation.

From now until December, the DRWC will respond to questions submitted online about the request for proposals. A tour of the sites  — not mandatory — is scheduled for Dec. 2. Proposals are due by Feb. 7 of next year.

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