East Falls is a growing neighborhood along the Schuylkill River just south of Manayunk. As Manayunk has gotten more expensive from a residential and retail perspective, people and businesses have moved to East Falls. We have begun to see multi-family and mixed-use developments and proposals take shape along Ridge Avenue, the neighborhood’s main commercial corridor. East Fall’s section of Ridge Avenue has started to really boom. In Riva, Foghorn, Fiorina, LeBus, and other trendy restaurants surround the thoroughfare.
Just over 10 years ago, a 285-unit mixed-use community was built at 4055 Ridge Ave. The development was named Dobson Mills and it included the restoration of old industrial structures as well as the development of new buildings. The complex was marketed for sale and traded hands in 2017 for $49.8 million.
The same group that purchased the apartment community also purchased the attached 138,584 square foot CMX-3 zoned vacant parcel along Scott’s Lane for just under $4 million in June of 2017.
It looks like the owners are getting ready to develop this property at 4021 Ridge Ave. In preparation for their presentation before the Civic Design Review (CDR) on November 5th, plans for the project were released. Dobson Mills Phase II will include 134 units throughout 3 new construction buildings. The project will also include 91 car parking spots and 41 bike parking spaces. The CDR presentation notes that the project does not need a zoning variance.
On the surface, 134 units on a vacant lot along a growing commercial corridor seems like a good thing and we do think these new residents will help support the retail businesses in the area. However, this development seems like it would be a better fit for King of Prussia or Glen Mills. It is three buildings surrounded by surface parking lots on a gigantic CMX-3 zoned parcel. We would have really liked to have seen more density on this parcel. The owners of the property could have built a much denser project on a section of this property and added even more units in a phase 3 and phase 4.
We do think this project will be a success from the owner’s perspective. People will be attracted to these new construction units with parking in a prime location in East Falls. However, as the neighborhood continues to develop over the next 10+ years, we think the owners could make even more of a return if they decided to build a more urban project with additional units and less land set aside for parking. With this property being within a federal qualified opportunity zone, it is in the owners’ interests to fit as many units as possible onto the parcel.
How do you feel about this project? Do you think that it should be denser or do you think the plans are right for the location?