Radnor Property's David Yeager On Breaking Ground At New Development Vue32
Radnor Property Group broke ground on its Vue32 mixed-use project in University City on May 11. The development is one of several major mixed-use projects in Philadelphia’s immediate future, which will be discussed at Bisnow’s Mixed-Use Conference on May 19 at the Ritz-Carlton.
Among our panelists will be Radnor founder David Yeager, who tells us the center of the $56M project at 3201 Race St is a 16-story tower with 164 planned apartments, with the first two floors to be occupied by a preschool.
That will be finished first, with 12 for-sale condos split between three building clusters to be constructed immediately after. The project is to be built on land Drexel owns, with a 99-year ground lease to Radnor (which will own improvements on the property), and Drexel will receive ground-lease payments based on the improvements without having to put up any capital of its own.
David says public-private partnerships with colleges, universities and other nonprofits have been a focus of Radnor for over 10 years now, with a particular emphasis on seeking development opportunities in "Eds & Meds" corridors.
The apartments will be marketed to grad students, faculty and staff at Drexel, as well as professionals who work in the area. Marketing to this demographic means that development has to fit its demonstrated desires—with 5% to 10% smaller units than the average market-rate apartment, but added amenities to improve the community experience for residents.
“What’s evolving in the urban multifamily housing market is that units continue to get smaller and more efficient—with taller ceilings and enlarged windows where possible—and amenities become enhanced relative to the social experience of our residents, many of whom tend to be Millennials or other professionals desiring to live closer to work,” David says.
David says the preschool, which will be leased to Nobel Learning Communities and branded as a Chesterbrook Academy, is a vital amenity of the project.
“With many of Drexel’s staff with young families, Vue32 provides an important resource strategically located on campus and will draw a keen interest for others interested in living in the University City and Powelton Village communities," David says. "Having a childcare facility managed by one of the most preeminent operators in the country is a phenomenal asset for our development.”
The land was bifurcated with two separate zoning classifications that did not permit high-rise apartments or childcare uses, but David says his firm saw the dynamics the location has, with its proximity to 30th Street Station and the Spring Garden Bridge with immediate access to the Art Museum area, as well as its prominent location on the east side of Drexel University.
With active engagement with Drexel and the local community group, Powelton Village Civic Association, Radnor provided schemes that respected the existing residential townhomes to the north and active community garden to the west.
David says the community group’s concerns were multifaceted: to preserve the integrity of surrounding uses, increase open space, encourage homeownership and minimize surface parking.
"We ultimately settled on a plan which allowed us to increase the height of the building to reduce the overall building footprint to create more green space and public plaza area while tucking parking beneath the tower. Moreover, the tower was shifted as far east as possible to maximize sunlight into the community garden.”
The result was a collaborative design that ultimately required 14 zoning variances for what was eventually unanimous approval.
Consistent engagement with the community is important for mixed-use projects like Vue32 as larger-scale projects are coming with the nearby Schuylkill Yards development, which will break ground soon after Radnor’s tower is scheduled to open. But rather than simply add to the increased scale that all these projects will bring, Vue32 is set to be an accommodation for that scale.
“With the first phase of Schuylkill Yards to be mainly office and commercial as I understand it, that only further underscores the need for residential projects like this one,” he says.