341-Unit Tower Proposed on Trader Joe’s Parking Lot

Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.

You’ve probably queued up waiting to get into the Trader Joe’s parking lot on 22nd St. Lately, you’ve probably waited in line again to get into the supermarket, and then again to check out. It seems like Trader Joe’s is constantly busy, slinging fresh produce, tasty snacks, and frozen products to the masses. The store at 22nd and Market proved to be so successful that the chain recently opened a second location in the city near the convention center. Or, did they open it in anticipation of their business at the original location being interrupted in the near future?

Trader Joe's parking lot
Trader Joe’s parking lot at 22nd and Market

The 32,616 square foot, CMX-5 zoned parking lot behind Trader Joe’s at 33 N. 22nd St. has always seemed like a prime development opportunity to us. Its surrounded by condo buildings and office towers, sits along the trolley line, and is a short walk to 30th Street Station. Three nearby mega surface lots are in various planning stages to be redeveloped. Although the parking lot may be convenient for grocery shoppers, the highest and best use of this land is not for the storage of vehicles and shopping carts.

A little less than a year ago, we saw some test boring taking place on the site and knew something was in the works for the parcel. Looks like we now have a good idea of what is planned. On September 1st, the owners will go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) seeking approval to build tower with 341 residential units on floors 7 through 29 and 248 car parking spaces within an accessory garage and on floors 0 through 6. The proposal also includes 114 bicycle spaces.

Wow! We almost spit up our Trader Joe’s chocolate coconut ice cream when we read the appeal description. This is a massive proposal that will have an impact on the skyline if built as planned. 341 homes for people is definitely a better use for this land than a surface parking lot.

However, do we really need the residential tower to be built atop a 6-story parking podium? 248 parking spots seems a little overkill at this transit-accessible location. We haven’t seen the project plans or renderings yet, but parking podiums rarely turn out well, especially when they’re not concealed by retail or other uses fronting the street. Let’s hope that 22nd St. is not just a blank wall.

The 248 parking spaces are broken down into 103 spaces within an accessory parking garage and another 145 non-accessory parking spaces in the basement through 6th floors of the tower. We imagine the non-accessory parking is to be rented out or is for Trader Joe’s customers. In CMX-5 zoning districts, above-ground non-accessory structured parking garages are not allowed without a variance. So, that is likely one reason the project needs to go through the ZBA.

As this parcel is zoned for commercial mixed-use and we see no commercial uses in the plan, the owners will also need a variance to proceed without a commercial aspect. Without seeing full plans, we are not sure if other variances are being requested.

If it were not for the parking podium, we think this project would be a home run. We would prefer a commercial use along 22nd St., but 341 residential units is better than a surface parking lot any day of the week. If this project is approved as planned, we hope the parking podium is somehow concealed and does not take away from the streetscape.

How do you feel about the project?

UPDATE: Renderings are now available for the project. See below. Although there is no retail in this project, we think it is well done. The building meets the street nicely with the residential lobby and leasing office facing 22nd St. Surprisingly, the upper residential lobby and amenity space front JFK Blvd. This should do wonders for making JFK more inviting to pedestrians and should help make the walk from 30th Street Station into Center City much more pleasant.

Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St. – JFK Blvd Frontage
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St. – JFK Frontage
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St.
Rendering of the tower at 33 N. 22nd St. from 22nd St.

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