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Brandywine Realty Trust Gets In On Industrial With Northeast Philly Project

A rendering of a two-building distribution center development in Northeast Philadelphia, abutting a residential area, planned by Brandywine Realty Trust

One of the biggest names in Philadelphia commercial real estate is jumping into its hottest asset class.

Brandywine Realty Trust has proposed a two-building distribution center development in far Northeast Philadelphia, submitting the project to the city's Civic Design Review for its June 1 meeting. Called Byberry North Business Center, the project calls for two 338K SF warehouses at 15000 Roosevelt Blvd.

Better known first for office complexes in the suburbs of Philly and Washington, D.C., and more recently for gleaming, modern office towers in Center City and University City, Brandywine had no industrial properties in its portfolio going into this year, according to year-end financial disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As long-term usage of office space remains an open question for many, the unprecedented demand for distribution centers makes industrial much more of a sure thing and is luring new players. Liberty Property Trust, once among Brandywine's competitors in the trophy class of office space in Philadelphia, pivoted to industrial three years ago.

Brandywine has owned the 50-acre parcel on Roosevelt Boulevard for "several years," and once had made preliminary plans for a six-building flex project on the site, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports. In the time Brandywine has held the land, Northeast Philadelphia has exploded as a hotbed of industrial development, with a pipeline of millions of square feet popping up where virtually none had been planned five or six years ago.

No timeline of development was provided with the CDR presentation, nor did Brandywine specify whether the project will be built on speculation or with a pre-leased tenant. The proposal noted the land's placement within a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Representatives for Brandywine did not respond to requests for comment.

A rendering of 3151 Market St., a 500K SF lab building within Brandywine Realty Trust's Schuylkill Yards development

The specific location of Byberry North speaks to how competitive and potentially lucrative the city's industrial market has become. Brandywine's plans call for the warehouses to be only 400 feet away from a residential development, with parking and driveway space as close as 160 feet. The CDR proposal includes measures like downward-facing lights, a sound barrier, an elevated land berm and extensive tree planting to minimize disruption for residential neighbors.

Demand for last-mile logistics has pushed development even closer to Center City, with a separate project from Court Street Ventures being announced in late May at 956 East Erie Ave., just north of the Kensington neighborhood. While both the Court Street project, a 381K SF warehouse to be built on spec, and Byberry North share proximity to Interstate 95, Court Street's building would sit near a much denser residential population — and near ground zero for Philadelphia's opioid crisis.

Brandywine's proposed distribution centers are planned to be 45 feet high each, with a total of 106 truck loading docks, 123 trailer storage spaces, 64 bicycle parking spaces and 558 automobile parking spaces. Brandywine's plan also calls for an expansion of the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Southampton Road that abuts the property. The project does not require any zoning variances.