Developer Goldenberg eyeing S. Broad St. health building to solidify control of block

The Goldenberg Group and E-Z Park Inc. have teamed up in hopes of purchasing the city-run health-center building at Broad and Lombard Streets, an acquisition that would give them near-complete control of a full city block in one of Philadelphia’s most active areas of real estate development.

The Blue Bell-based developer and Philadelphia parking-lot operator plan to bid on the District Health Center No. 1 at 500 S. Broad St., an aged — but some say historically significant — building that the city is seeking to sell in a move to consolidate its medical-service functions.

Goldenberg and E-Z Park are the first development team to confirm interest in the mid-20th-century glazed-brick building in a section of southern Center City that’s seen a recent spate of hotel, residential and retail activity.

Combining the medical center site with properties that they already own would give E-Z Park and Goldenberg a 2.5-acre development site comprising most of the block bounded by Broad and 15th Streets, between Lombard and South Streets.

Goldenberg acquired the now-closed World Communications Charter School, just south of the health center building, last year. It also has under agreement the two-parcel property west of the charter building that recently housed the Loft Bar and Coco’s Chicken and Waffles, according to current owner Frank Funaro.

The bar and restaurant were destroyed in a fire in March, NBC10 reported at the time.

E-Z Park and its affiliates, meanwhile, own the parking lot that occupies most of the rest of the block, along with three rowhouse properties between the lot and 15th Street.

The block’s only properties that would be missing from the companies’ assemblage — if it purchases the medical building — are the strip of rowhouses facing Lombard Street along the block’s northwest.

Camera icon www.PhillyByDrone.com
Health center at 500 S. Broad St. (at upper left) and surrounding properties as seen from overhead facing east.

“We are very excited about the things we’d be able to do with the combined parcel,” Goldenberg chief operating officer Seth Shapiro said in an interview this week. He and E-Z Park co-owner Harvey Spear declined to share further details about plans for the site.

The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which is handling the sale of the health center on the city’s behalf, said last month in a solicitation seeking developer interest that it would like to see “active uses at the ground-floor level, such as retail and restaurants. Upper stories of the building may include residential, hotel, or commercial space.”

Development at the site would build on projects recently completed and underway along a strip of Broad Street centered on the blocks south of City Hall known as Avenue of the Arts for its concentration of performing-arts venues, such as the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music.

At Broad and Chestnut Streets, Washington-based MRP Realty finished converting a dormitory building at Chestnut Street last year into the high-end Griffin apartments.

A few blocks south, at Locust Street, Choice Hotels International Inc. is finishing work on a 14-story Cambria Hotels & Suites property that the Rockville, Md.-based company has characterized as a flagship for the brand.

Plans are also being mulled to redevelop the Merriam Theater property, between Spruce and Locust Streets, to accommodate a tower of as many as 32 stories,  most likely of apartments or condos.

“The availability of this key site provides a rare opportunity to create a unique, new destination along one of Philadelphia’s most prominent commercial cultural corridors,” the PIDC said in its solicitation, which sets a Sept. 22 deadline for developers to apply for placement on a short list of potential purchasers.

Current uses of the 500 S. Broad St. building include a medical lab and a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases.

James Garrow, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, said in an email that those functions are being moved by the end of 2018 to place them in locations where the agency’s units can “work more closely together.”

The department is seeking nearby new locations for the building’s clinics to preserve neighborhood access, Garrow said.

Whether the building itself is preserved, however, is another matter.

Days after the PIDC posted solicitation seeking developers for the site, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia nominated the building for protection as a historic asset, describing the 57-year-old structure as a “distinctive and intact example of Mid-Century Modern architectural design.”

Shapiro said that Goldenberg would be willing to consider designs that incorporate the building’s facade or other elements if it is the winning bidder for the property.

“If we are successful, we look forward to having a dialogue with the preservation community about the best way to handle the building,” he said.

 

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