Central Philly waterfront agency seeks developer for lot near Ben Franklin Bridge

The Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) is seeking a developer to turn a parking lot it owns on the west side of Christopher Columbus Boulevard, just north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, into a pocket of businesses and dwellings that could help enliven the waterfront area.

In a solicitation posted to the DRWC’s website, the agency gives developers until Aug. 20 to submit proposals for the 1.6-acre Vine Street Lot between Vine and Callowhill Streets.

Camera icon Jacob Adelman / Staff
Wood Street Steps, between Water and Front Streets, directly west of the Vine Street Lot.

It does not specify how the agency would like to see the site developed but asks for responses that  would help integrate “public spaces with attractive residential, retail, and commercial development” as called for in the area’s master plan.

The solicitation also asks developers for proposals that honor the property’s history, which included a stint as a shipyard in the 17th and 18th centuries, and suggests that plans integrate the adjacent Wood Street Steps, a stone stairway between Water and Front Streets directly west of the Vine Street Lot.

The steps are the only surviving example of 10 passageways to the waterfront commissioned by William Penn in the early 1700s to promote maritime commerce and transportation, according to a plaque at the site.

Up for sale or lease is nearly the entire block bounded by Vine and Callowhill between  Columbus Boulevard and Water Street. The offering excludes a separately owned, 4,600-square-foot parcel at the block’s northwest corner where permit applications show a development of at least three four-story townhouses with on-site parking is planned.

The Vine Street Lot is just three blocks south of the DRWC-owned Festival Pier, which is in the early stages of development by Jefferson Apartment Group and Haverford Properties into a complex of apartment buildings surrounded by open public space.

It is also directly across the street from the assemblage of piers — the sites of waterfront restaurants including Dave & Buster’s and Morgan’s Pier — that were acquired last year by New York’s Durst Organization development group.

The DRWC said it decided to post its solicitation — officially called a request for proposals — for the Vine Street Lot in the interest of transparency after a “reputable real estate developer” made an unprompted offer for the property in April.

Durst did not make that unsolicited offer but considers the lot to be “a very attractive site,” said company spokesman Jordan Barowitz. “We are looking at the RFP.”

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