BRIDGE project in Old City shows off its retailers

The Bridge project that's due in April 2017 at 205 Race Street in Old City November 28, 2016

The developer behind BRIDGE — the 17-story retail/residential building under construction at 205 Race Street in Old City has secured three of its four retail tenants for the project’s ground floor.

Developer Jeffrey Brown confirmed these businesses: Moxie Blue Salon, a high-end salon; Philadelphia-based United by Blue, an apparel retailer with a cafe that will serve breakfast, lunch and brunch; and Tuna Bar, a sleek, sushi bar within a 2,600 square feet box by Ken Sze, part owner of Yokohama restaurant bar in Maple Shade, N.J.

“BRIDGE was the perfect opportunity for our growing brand to expand into one of the premier retail storefronts in Philadelphia,” said United by Blue owner Brian Linton. The new store will open in the summer at triple the size of its current flagship store in Old City, he said.

Brown of Brown/Hill Development in Huntingdon Valley identified the tenants during a walking tour of the project earlier this week.He said his company was still negotiating with the fourth retailer, and was close to announcing its name. The four retailers will occupy 14,000-square feet of ground floor retail. Developers are increasingly using retail to generate traffic and revenue. The city’s new zoning code also is promoting the trend.

“The retailers were attracted to a variety of features about the building,” said Josh Weiss, retail and investment sales specialist at MSC Retail, who brokered the deal. “We wanted the retail to serve not only as an amenity for the building and the neighborhood, but also as a catalyst for activity on the street.”

Brown, who splits his time between projects here and in New York, said his team plans to open an office next month to begin leasing the building’s 146 all-rental units. They include studios, as well as one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

Under the city’s new building code that allows developers like Brown to create higher-density buildings, 10 percent — or 15 of the units — will be reserved for medium income units and will run about half the cost of the 131 market rate units.

“We want the diversity of the building, and we wanted to take advantage of the building bonus.“It is the first high rise in the city that has a mixed income apartment element,” Brown said.

A studio, he said, starts at $1,800 a month; a one-bedroom at $2,200; and a two-bedroom will set you back $3,100.

The top residential units will offer a half dozen private terraces with 180-degree panoramic views of the city. 

The $65 million BRIDGE project, which broke ground in August 2015, aims to connect Old City with Northern Liberties and the Race Street Pier. The architect is Gluck+ and the building is aiming for LEED Gold certification.

Brown said BRIDGE will provide what has been missing in the neighborhood: quality residential units and new retail offerings.“It’s an underserved market,” said Brown, who bought the property — then a surface lot — in 2000 and worked with the Old City Civic Association on several designs before getting it right last year.

“They didn’t want anything over 65 feet, or six stories high, which is pretty similar to many of the existing heights in Old City. But from our point of view, the city required additional density in taller buildings to bring more people to the inner city.”

Brown said he worked closely with Alan Greenberger, then the city’s deputy mayor for economic development.

It was Greenberger who chaired the Zoning Code Commission, allowing for greater density and height limits that passed City Council in 2012.

“It’s on the edge of Old City, next to this immense bridge that looks out to the river, and with a subway [PATCO] that runs on it,” Greenberger said of the BRIDGE project. “You often find taller buildings on an edge” because you can’t develop the other side.

“It has a very tall billboard right now and that’s not going away,” said Greenberger, who now teaches urban design at Drexel University. “The economics of building on such a site required more density simply to make the project economically feasible.”

Brown, who said he relishes challenging projects, is comparing the BRIDGE with his other baby in Manhattan, called The Stack at 204th and Broadway, that was also designed by Gluck+.

“It’s New York City’s first, high rise modular apartment building,” he said. “It’s a sculptural building like [the BRIDGE].” And with 250 feet of frontage along Second and Race Streets, Weiss said the retailers here will have lots of visibility.“We chose these tenants because we expect them to attract customers from throughout Center City and beyond.”