PhilaPort Puts Piers 38 And 40 On Delaware Waterfront Up For As-Is Sale
A key piece of real estate on a stretch of the Delaware River waterfront that has proven notoriously difficult to develop is on the market.
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, known as PhilaPort, has put Piers 38 and 40 up for sale as a single lot in a sealed bidding process managed by local commercial real estate services firm Binswanger. The property, a reinforced concrete slab surrounded by water on three sides, carries the address 779 South Christopher Columbus Blvd. in South Philadelphia.
On the 8.8-acre parcel sit a nearly matching pair of two-story warehouses built in 1920, each 180K SF, that are structurally sound enough to be redeveloped but carry no historic designations that would prevent their demolition. The deadline for bids to be submitted is Jan. 28.
The property is to be sold as-is, with the responsibility for due diligence such as assessing how much construction the slab can support falling to bidders and the eventual buyer, PhilaPort Director of Government and Public Affairs Ayanna Williams told Bisnow.
Aside from the waterfront appeal, Piers 38 and 40’s location also has the benefit of being virtually across Christopher Columbus Boulevard from the entrance to Interstate 95. The parcel has already garnered interest from local and national developers, said Binswanger partner and Senior Vice President Chris Pennington, who leads the team marketing the site.
“It’s a very unique opportunity in the city of Philadelphia, one we don’t see very often,” Pennington said.
Long separated by I-95 and Christopher Columbus Boulevard from the pedestrian fabric of the rest of the city, the Delaware River waterfront has seen a revival of development interest, with the New York-based Durst Organization building multiple projects and a 1,100-unit residential development under construction by Concordia Group and D3 in the Riverwards neighborhood of Port Richmond.
South Philadelphia has been subject to plenty of its own development ideas, but with a much more spotty record. Just a couple of blocks to the south of Piers 38 and 40, Bart Blatstein spent years seeking permission, to no avail, to build a Super Wawa gas station as part of an outdoor retail plaza similar to the big-box stores on the other side of the boulevard.
Blatstein’s parcel is half of the site where a Foxwoods casino was once proposed, with the other half currently planned for an 855-unit multifamily project with retail space. Just to the south of the former Foxwoods site, a little-known developer proposed a 10-building multifamily complex in 2017, only for it to come to nothing.
Though PhilaPort is a state agency, its process for disposal of the property is nothing like how the city of Philadelphia has handled valuable, publicly held real estate such as the land surrounding the future park capping I-95 at Penn’s Landing. There are no requirements for a type of use the property must be, nor are there any diversity or community benefit conditions.
“We’re committed to a fair, open and transparent bidding process, and we have no concerns or desires for what the land would be used for after it’s sold,” Williams said.
Binswanger has launched a website for the offering, which includes a link for interested parties to download the confidential property brochure and submit a sealed bid.
PhilaPort is pursuing the sale to raise capital for its ongoing project to expand capacity, launched by the state in 2016 with an expected budget of $300M. In addition to building more warehouses near the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal and the Tioga Marine Terminal, PhilaPort is building a new deepwater berth, for which it received a $49M federal grant early this year.