Snapshots

728 multifamily units delivered on Philadelphia’s Waterfront since 2012, but the pipeline is surging

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s 2012 Master Plan identified three areas for development over the subsequent 25 years.

May 01, 2019
  • The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s 2012 Master Plan for the Central Delaware  identified three areas for development over the subsequent 25 years: Spring Garden Street, Penn’s Landing, and Washington Avenue. The plan’s projections for growth were modest: it estimated citywide absorption of 1,000 new construction units annually, with 225 of them optimistically allocated to the waterfront across these three areas. 
  • The plan’s absorption estimates hinged on the conservative assumption that the city would add 100,000 residents by 2035. Sixteen years out, Philadelphia is already more than halfway there. As a result, the housing absorption prediction feels outdated as well: the slowest year since the plan’s adoption saw more than 1,500 units deliver across Greater Center City alone, while 2018 saw a record 2,810 units constructed. 
  • While the city’s moving faster than expected, the Waterfront has lagged: the market has delivered only 728 units to the Central Delaware Waterfront since 2012, 847 fewer than the plan’s estimates suggested could be absorbed in seven years. But parcels slated for development are percolating with more than 7,900 potential units. Of those, 19% have pursued city approvals or sought funding, bringing them closer to the starting line. In terms of both completed and proposed units, it’s clear that the Spring Garden area is developing the fastest despite delays in kicking off construction at Festival Pier, a key anchor site. Recent Civic Design Review submissions indicate that the Washington Avenue area is playing an aggressive game of catchup, with 2,237 units proposed. 

Source: JLL Research, DRWC Master Plan for the Central Delaware, U.S. Census

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