September 21, 2020

New York’s Durst on track to be selected to develop Penn’s Landing, over 76ers arena proposal

A committee under the agency that oversees development along central Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront has recommended the Durst Organization to redevelop Penn’s Landing, likely ending efforts by the 76ers to build themselves a new basketball arena there.

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The Delaware River Waterfront Corp.’s selection committee for the Penn’s Landing project said Wednesday morning that the New York developer’s proposal for the site was best in keeping with the government-affiliated nonprofit’s goals for the area.

The full board of the DRWC, a government-affiliated nonprofit, was scheduled vote on whether to follow the committee’s recommendation later Wednesday. If the proposal is endorsed by the full board, the DRWC will negotiate a formal agreement with Durst.

The recommendation puts Durst’s proposal on track to beat out one by the Sixers, which was said to include a 19,000-seat arena nestled among apartments, a hotel, a dozen or so restaurants, a supermarket, and a public school building.

Another alliance of bidders, led by Hoffman & Associates of Washington, had proposed a dense cluster of high-rise buildings at the north end of Penn’s Landing, with a row of shorter towers fronting boat slips to the site’s south.

Another proposal was submitted by a consortium comprising locally based developers Keystone Property Group, Hersha Hospitality Management and Toll Bros. and the Republic Family of Cos. of Washington.

The selection process began last fall, when DRWC announced that it was seeking developers to construct residential buildings with ground-floor shops and restaurants north and south of the 12-acre park planned over a section of Interstate 95 between Chestnut and Walnut Streets.

The 7.4-acre northern development site, bounded by Market and Chestnut Streets, has hosted an ice- and roller-skating rink and, until its recent demolition, a hulking cement tower built for an ill-fated sky-tram to Camden. The 3.7-acre southern section consists mostly of a parking lot bounded by Spruce and Lombard Streets.

Penn’s Landing sits near the geographic center of the the waterfront zone under the DRWC’s watch, which extends from Allegheny Avenue in Port Richmond to Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia.

The developer search marked the agency’s first attempt to see Penn’s Landing developed since the early 2000s, when mall developer Simon Property Group abandoned plans there for a shopping-and-entertainment complex with a Cheesecake Factory restaurant and the Camden tram.

DRWC president Joe Forkin said at Wednesday’s board meeting that the agency will begin a community engagement process on the Durst proposal after a formal agreement with Durst is signed.

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