August 29, 2023
For Immediate Release: August 29, 2023
- Department of Public Property (DPP):
- Philadelphia City Council: Joe Grace, , 215-964-7093
- Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC): Kevin Lessard, , 215-496-8161
- National / Frontier (Development Partners): Jill Asher, , 215-880-8549
- Department of Planning and Development (P&D), Karen Guss, , 267-546-7715
- Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP): Trenton Smiley,
- African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP): Samantha Byles, , 857-869-0822
Firms Selected to Transform Historic Family Court Building & Adjacent Parking Lot on Philadelphia’s Iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway
National Real Estate Development and Frontier Development and Hospitality Group’s winning proposal places the African American Museum of Philadelphia in a brand-new building in a marquee location on the Parkway, provides an adaptive re-use of the iconic Family Court Building as a premier lifestyle hotel, and incorporates the Free Library of Philadelphia’s new Children and Family Center.
Note to media: High-res renderings and images related to the project are available for download online. Media must credit National / Frontier upon use.
PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia and PIDC announced today that National Real Estate Development, LLC (National Development) and Frontier Development & Hospitality Group (Frontier) in a joint venture known as, National/Frontier, in collaboration with Method Co, Smith & Roller, and BKP Development Group, have been selected as the development partners for the redevelopment of 1801 Vine and 1901 Wood Streets, adjacent to Philadelphia’s iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In August 2022, following an extensive request for qualifications (RFQ) the City announced that four development teams had been shortlisted for the opportunity to reimagine the sites, with a requirement to incorporate the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP)’s relocation in the proposal along with the Free Library of Philadelphia’s expansion and new Children and Family Center.
National/Frontier’s winning proposal is poised to redefine the heart of Philadelphia’s cultural landscape along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This visionary partnership brings together a commitment to preserving the city’s heritage while ushering in a new era of innovation and cultural significance. National/Frontier will partner with Method Co., Smith & Roller, and BKP Development Group, resulting in minority equity ownership of the project and supporting a key priority of the RFP that was issued to the shortlisted firms. This unique structure and proposal will bring meaningful participation and growth for M/W/DBE companies.
The proposal envisions a dynamic transformation that aligns seamlessly with the surrounding community. AAMP, a cornerstone of the city’s cultural heritage, will be relocated to a state-of-the-art new facility adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 1901 Wood Street. This marquee location pays tribute to the Museum’s profound significance and places it in the esteemed company of other iconic institutions lining the Parkway. The City of Philadelphia opened AAMP during its bicentennial celebrations nearly 50 years ago, becoming the first city in America to fund and build an institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting the heritage of African Americans.
“We are thrilled to embark on this transformative journey with National Development and Frontier,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This project stands as a testament to our commitment to honoring the past while building a future that reflects our values and aspirations. The African American Museum of Philadelphia’s relocation to a brand new facility on the Parkway, the city’s most celebrated cultural thoroughfare, signifies a historic move that rightfully places it alongside Philadelphia’s most prestigious museums. I want to thank the PIDC team for leading a thoughtful and strategic process and we’re pleased to see this project also incorporate new amenities for our residents through an expansion of the Free Library of Philadelphia.”
The winning redevelopment plan also reimagines The Family Court Building at 1801 Vine Street. Modeled after palace buildings on Paris’s Place de la Concorde, the building will be converted into a boutique hotel with complementary modern amenities including a signature restaurant, bar, and event spaces, drawing the public in and activating the grand Vine Street entrance.
“The selection of a development team for the Family Court building is a significant step forward for Philadelphia,” said City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. “And the inclusion of the African American Museum of Philadelphia is incredibly important for Philadelphia. The stories of African Americans are the stories of Philadelphia, and they deserve to be told in the center of our City’s arts and cultural community. This is a tremendous day for our city and the African American community.”
“The City and PIDC have been gracious and considerate partners throughout this process, and we are excited to take the next steps of this journey with National Development and Frontier,” said Dr. Ashley Jordan, AAMP President and CEO. “The addition of a new building to Philadelphia’s cultural corridor that will be dedicated to AAMP and our mission to bring people together in celebration of the Black experience is a testament to the City’s commitment to telling a history inclusive of our stories, perspectives, and people.”
In addition, the proposal incorporates the Free Library of Philadelphia Parkway Central building’s expansion, which will advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity through the new Children and Family Center (CFC) and auditorium, in furtherance of the Free Library’s mission and its vision of building an enlightened community devoted to lifelong learning.
“The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased this project will be providing additional library spaces for the community. It’s also exciting that the African American Museum of Philadelphia will be joining us on the Parkway. We look forward to exploring more opportunities for our organizations to collaborate in the future,” said Kelly Richards, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
“The National/Frontier development team is thrilled to be selected as the developer to work with the city on this transformative project. We look forward to collaborating with AAMP and contributing to the revitalization of the iconic Parkway Central Library while giving new life to The Family Court Building,” said Daniel Killinger, President, National Real Estate Development. “This visionary project hopes to honor the original intent of the Parkway while seamlessly integrating the site into the surrounding neighborhoods, bolstering the cultural tapestry of the Parkway and Logan Circle.”
“We recognize that this project holds immense importance for Philadelphia and its residents,” said Evens Charles, Founder and Managing Principal, Frontier Development & Hospitality Group. “The collaboration between National Development, Frontier and our partners, coupled with the City’s bold leadership in driving the project to fruition, will result in a development that seamlessly blends heritage with progress. We look forward to honoring Philadelphia’s rich and vibrant legacy of African American arts and culture in all aspects of this project.”
The timing of construction will depend on several major factors, including when the project obtains appropriate transaction approvals, the City and developer negotiate a full set of terms and conditions for the overall development and the developer obtains all necessary project permits and approvals. This is a large project with complex building types, historic rehabilitation, sitework, utilities and infrastructure. The current estimate, which is subject to change, is for the proposed project to be completed about five years after the selection process concludes, in 2028 at the very earliest.
Regarding the process, PIDC released a request for qualifications (RFQ) in July 2021 for interested developers to respond and submit qualifications for the redevelopment of the two adjacent sites. Consideration and evaluation of RFQ responses occurred in the spring of 2022, when four of seven responses were shortlisted for participation in the subsequent request for proposals (RFP) in August 2022. The initial RFP submission deadline was extended to allow the shortlisted development teams the opportunity to propose locating AAMP at 1901 Wood Street instead of the former Family Court Building at 1801 Vine Street, if it could do so without adversely impacting the Free Library’s expansion plans or the needs of AAMP, including location visibility.
“PIDC—on behalf of the City of Philadelphia—has proudly managed the process of choosing a proposal for redeveloping this historic site, and the collaborative proposal between National/Frontier and their development partners represents a unique fusion of sustainable, forward-thinking development and a profound respect for Philadelphia’s history,” said Jodie Harris, President of PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation. “While all submissions were strong, this proposal offered the best mix of development team diversity, experience, project financing plan, and a very thoughtful design and support plan for both AAMP and Parkway Central Library’s expansion. PIDC is committed to catalyzing major projects that create quality jobs, advance equity, and promote sustainability, and the development team’s integration of history and modern innovation exemplifies the creative vision that will help define the future of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.”
After the RFP submission deadline February 2023, the selection committee underwent a period of evaluation and consideration of the responses. The selection committee included staff from the City’s Department of Public Property, Department of Planning and Development, Free Library of Philadelphia, along with officials from the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Logan Square Neighbors Association, and PIDC. The committee reviewed the proposals with a specific focus on commitment to equity and inclusion, proposed uses, quality, experience, financial capacity and cost, feasibility, community impact, and the inclusion of an economic opportunity plan.
About 1801 Vine Street
The building at 1801 Vine Street previously housed the operations of the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. The 247,196 square foot building was designed by Philadelphia architect John Torrey Windrim and constructed in 1941 with funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Family Court Building and The Free Library of Philadelphia (completed in 1927) are twin buildings, modeled after the palace buildings of La Place de la Concorde in Paris. The Family Court building’s exterior and a portion of its interior, including 37 WPA murals, are listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The interior designation is significant and rare; other interiors so honored include City Council Chambers at City Hall, Wanamaker’s Grand Court, and the main waiting room at 30th Street Station.
About 1901 Wood Street
The 88,000 square foot lot at 1901 Wood Street currently houses a parking lot managed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA). It was previously held for the expansion of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library. The City exercised its right under its contract with PPA to offer the property for development. Inclusion of Parkway Central Library’s plan for a 60,000 square foot Children and Family Center, auditorium, storage, and relocation of administrative office space is required in any development proposed for the parcel.
About National Real Estate Development
National Real Estate Development, LLC (National Development), is a real estate development firm focused on developing urban mixed-use projects throughout the country. Since 2013, the team has developed over four million square feet in major markets such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. National Development bases its rigorous development processes on the principles of integrity, community, collaboration, and sustainability, and aims to transform the neighborhoods which it develops. Regardless of location, National Development strives to consistently create value through complex project structures, delivering tailored projects that are specifically designed to meet the needs of a given market. In particular, National Development focuses on setting new standards for live-work-play environments developed in urban communities. Notable projects include East Market in Philadelphia, The BLOC in Los Angeles, and 100 Van Ness in San Francisco. National Development is the wholly owned, full-service development subsidiary of National Real Estate Advisors, LLC. To learn more, visit www.natrealestatedevelopment.com.
About Frontier Development & Hospitality Group LLC
Frontier Development & Hospitality Group LLC is a real estate development and acquisition firm with a diverse portfolio of hospitality and multi-family investments in urban and secondary markets across six states. Frontier has capitalized and developed a $200M+ portfolio of high-quality, internationally branded lodging assets with approximately $600 million of urban infill mixed-use development in the pipeline. The firm’s management team brings expertise in the areas of acquisitions, dispositions, development, construction management, and asset management. Frontier is a strategic, risk-managed, value-creation firm that manages bottom-line investments, enhances communities where it invests, all the while delivering sound economic returns to its investors and capital partners. For more information, visit www.frontier-development.com.