Slim tower to replace Chestnut St. Rainbow building

A residential tower is coming to the 1200 block of Chestnut Street, bringing 49 new apartments to the Center City neighborhood.  The planned nine-story building will replace a vacant storefront last occupied by Rainbow Apparel, a discount clothing chain.

Zoning permits issued by the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections last week outlined plans by developer Michael Alhadad to demolish the three-story commercial building at 1208 Chestnut St. He purchased the property in 2017 for $2.7 million.

Renderings depict a slim high-rise that stretches a full block, from Chestnut Street to a three-story bump out facing Sansom Street. Both towers will feature rooftop terraces with adjoining penthouse units.

    • A blueprint for the proposed building at 1208 Chestnut.
      A blueprint for the proposed building at 1208 Chestnut.

Alhadad said he envisioned an anchor tenant eventually occupying a large, first-floor space.

"We are going to do commercial on the first floor, street to street," he said, in a phone interview. "My plan is to do a higher ceiling in the commercial space — 18 to 20 feet high — so we can get a highly visible tenant to fit the downtown environment.

The narrow property is zoned CMX-5 allowing for development above the proposed 112-foot tower, so the building can be constructed without any further approvals. The proposal calls for no on-site parking; instead, the developer plans to lease 18 spaces from a nearby garage.

Alhadad is moving ahead with the project at a time when interest in the area is growing. A boom — years in the making — has taken off, spurred in large part by the $557 million redevelopment of the Gallery. Over the past few years, three large projects encompassing nearly 900 apartment units have gone up on surrounding blocks. Residential development in the 19107 ZIP code has played a major role in Center City’s overall population growth, according to a recent report from Center City District.

The developer is best known for building student housing near Temple University and occasionally courting controversy with neighbors.

In 2017, he landed in the middle of a heated debate over the future of a community tennis center when he bought the Girard Avenue building. The developer had slated the facility for demolition in order to make way for a gas station, triggering outcry from neighbors. In another instance, a historical marker on a property owned by Alhadad went missing after his company sought a demolition permit.

The current Chestnut Street property features a distinctive terra cotta bay window that is the last visible remnant of the Hamilton and Diesinger Building. The elegant 20th-century tower caught fire in 1942, necessitating the removal of its top five floors.

This story has been updated to include comments from Alhadad.

About the author

Ryan Briggs, Data Reporter

Ryan Briggs is WHYY's data reporter.  He works on the PlanPhilly team and across the WHYY newsroom on investigative features. Before joining WHYY, he covered politics, criminal justice and government policy since 2011. He has worked as a staff reporter for Next City, the Philadelphia City Paper, and City & State PA, while contributing stories to a variety of other news outlets as a freelancer, including WHYY.

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