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New Hotel-Anchored Mixed-Use Development Forged From Former Riverfront Iron Works In Bala Cynwyd

On the western bank of the Schuylkill River, known to most locals as the setting for Interstate 76 and not much else, a new development has taken shape with a hard-to-duplicate combination of the past and future.

The Residence Inn by Marriott in Bala Cynwyd was built within and using parts from the former Pencoyd Iron Works in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd.

Developed by Penn Real Estate Group, the $30M Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing opened earlier this year in the bones of the former Pencoyd Iron Works plant in the Bala Cynwyd section of Lower Merion Township. Connected to the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia by a recently renovated footbridge, Pencoyd Landing contains a 125K SF Residence Inn by Marriott and a 100K SF fitness center operated by local company AFC Fitness, which also has a tennis facility.

The seven-story, 123-room hotel also features two restaurants from local celebrity chef Nicholas Elmi: a 2K SF daytime café called The Landing Kitchen on the ground floor and a 7,500 SF Mediterranean restaurant called Lark, which includes a 1,275 SF outdoor terrace and 1,250 SF private dining room, Penn Group co-founder Donna Galvin told Bisnow. The Landing Kitchen also has outdoor seating overlooking the river.

The Residence Inn and The Landing Kitchen, which sit at 615 Righters Ferry Road, both opened to the public in March, while Lark is scheduled to open in the next month or two. Eventually, Elmi plans to extend The Landing Kitchen's hours into dinner as well, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Much of the skeleton of the former iron plant was preserved in the structure of the hotel and as architectural accents across the 12-acre property. The historic former office of the factory was renovated and now serves as the international headquarters for the Penn Group, Penn Real Estate Group’s parent company that also has multiple subsidiaries in the solar energy industry. Penn Group occupies all 5K SF of the deep red, Victorian-style building, which was erected in 1873.

The former office of Pencoyd Iron Works in Bala Cynwyd is now the international headquarters of Penn Group.

Penn Group began assembling land around the plant in 1999 and moved forward with development plans once the factory stopped operating in 2017, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports. Among the properties the company purchased is the site of the United Artists movie theater across the river in Manayunk, which it recently spent $1M updating. The Ironworks site itself has 2,000 feet of river frontage, Galvin said.

The architectural work, carried out by a team from firms Coscia Moos and Land Collective with Penn in-house architect Stephen Gibson, was lauded by Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron not just for its preservation of the site’s industrial history, but also for its focus on accessibility to modes of transportation aside from cars.

The glass first floor of the Residence Inn overlooks the public plaza in the Pencoyd Landing development, serviced by a snack bar housed in a shed made from the former Pencoyd Iron Works.

All the entrances in Ironworks at Pencoyd’s Landing are at the same level as the Pencoyd trail that passes through the property. Penn gave an easement to Lower Merion Township so that it could connect with the local trail network that extends from the suburb of Pottstown to the Bartram’s Garden area of Southwest Philadelphia, Saffron reports. 

A key element of that network is the footbridge, which was historically used by ironworkers to walk from their homes in Manayunk to the factory and which Brian O’Neill’s MLP Ventures updated as part of an agreement with Lower Merion in 2017. The Manayunk edge of the bridge is also a short walk to the Wissahickon Transit Center, where bus routes converge at a SEPTA Regional Rail stop. O’Neill, whose Royal Athena apartment building sits just north of Pencoyd Landing, lost legal battles with both the township and Penn Group over access to and the condition of the bridge, Saffron reports.