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Philly Shortlists 4 Development Teams For Family Court Project, Now Including African American Museum

A year after the city of Philadelphia first issued a request for qualifications to redevelop the Family Court building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a shortlist of candidates has been selected and the project's scope has been adjusted.

The Family Court Building in Philadelphia, seen from Logan Square in November 2020 with its sister building, the Parkway Central Library, to the left.

The four teams of developers selected to respond to the upcoming official request for proposals will be tasked with integrating a new location for the African American Museum in Philadelphia within the 240K SF, historically protected building. The partnerships, each of which includes at least one Black-owned developer, will have until the end of the year to submit their proposals.

The four teams selected are:

Trammell CrowThe Badger Group and Salamander Hotels.

Tishman Speyer and Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners.

National Real Estate Development, Frontier Development & Hospitality, Smith + Roller, Method Co. and BKP Development.

Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds and Mosaic Development Partners.

AAMP has been planning to relocate from its home at 701 Arch St. for some time. When the city and Delaware River Waterfront Corp. solicited proposals for developing around the upcoming Interstate 95 capping project and park at Penn's Landing, bidders were asked to include a proposal to house AAMP.

PIDC, which is leading the RFP process on behalf of the city, hasn't laid out any specific square footage requirements for AAMP, but Council President Darrell Clarke said at an event announcing the new location Thursday that the museum will not need more than 50K SF, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. That would account for less than a quarter of the Family Court building, which has historical protections not just for its exterior but for much of its mural-covered interior. 

Relocating AAMP to reside near the city's most famous museums, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation and The Franklin Institute, elevates AAMP from also-ran status to its rightful place as a civic institution, Mosaic CEO Greg Reaves told Bisnow in an interview on Friday.

"Having it in that area really matters," Reaves said. "Where the museum has been located didn’t give it the justice that it deserves, and the new location has the opportunity to be really impactful.”

AAMP was founded in 1976 to coincide with the country's bicentennial anniversary.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia at its Seventh Street location, seen in 2013.

Each of the four partnerships that will submit proposals contains at least one well-capitalized developer with ongoing, large-scale development projects with mixed uses, such as East Market for National or the Philadelphia Navy Yard for Mosaic. Of the four groups, only the joint venture between New York-based Tishman and Washington, D.C.-based Jair Lynch lacks a company founded in Philadelphia. A representative for Tishman declined to comment.

National's teaming up with Smith + Roller, Method and BKP came out of conversations on forming diverse partnerships with The Collective, the hybrid fund management collective and industry group focused on advancing and scaling up Black-owned development firms, National Senior Director of Development William McDowell told Bisnow. Smith + Roller principal Tayyib Smith is one of the Collective's founding board members.

“We just think it’s a tremendous site in Philadelphia with enormous development potential, and National is very used to dealing with complex urban projects," McDowell said. "With a desire to promote diversity in the city, we’ve created a robust and diverse partnership.”

Lubert-Adler and Mosaic had been in discussions to partner on a major development for months before deciding to bid for the Family Court project together, Reaves said. Representatives for Trammell Crow, the Badger Group and Salamander didn't respond to requests for comment by press time.

The development site includes an 88K SF parcel of land diagonally across from the Family Court and adjacent to Parkway Central Library, the neighboring sister building. In addition to AAMP, any development proposal must include a 60K SF building to house the Philadelphia Free Library's plans for a children and family center, auditorium, storage and administrative office space.

Beyond the library and museum plans, the city isn't dictating any specific usage in its RFP, a PIDC representative said. Based on the companies included, at least the partnerships including Trammell Crow and National are likely to have a hotel component. The current proposal process began after Peebles Corp.'s plan to redevelop the Family Court building into a hotel stalled, eventually being canceled at the end of 2020.