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AQ Rittenhouse officially gets off the ground, below ground

phillrealestateblogThis article originally appeared on the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

The Friere Charter School’s new neighbor, the AQ Rittenhouse mixed-use apartment-retail-classroom tower at 2025 Chestnut Street in Rittenhouse Square, began digging itself out of the hole it cleared yesterday morning with a ceremonial groundbreaking.

That hole, in which officials of developer Aquinas Realty Partners, elected officials and community representatives turned the first shovels of dirt, had been the site of the Philadelphia YWCA Annex, built in 1954 but vacant for more than a decade. The building next door to it, where the groundbreaking program took place, originally housed the YWCA and now houses the Friere Charter School high school.

Designed by BLT Architects and overseen by Stampfl Associates, the building that will fill the hole will rise 12 stories above Chestnut Street. In the hole, below street level, will be expanded clasroom and activity space for Friere. On the ground floor will be 4,500 square feet of retail space plus a 1,500-square-foot mezzanine; Aquinas wants to fill at least part of this space with a restaurant. Above it will be 110 luxury apartments in studio, one- and two-bedroom configurations. The building will also have open space in the form of a second-floor terrace, a center courtyard on the eighth floor, and a rooftop sky terrace and lounge.

It will also have parking for one car: a garage-stored car share for tenants’ use. Other amenities include a fitness center, 24-hour doorman and concierge, fitness center, Wi-Fi cafe, bike storage and dog wash room.

The building meets the standards for LEED Silver certification.

“AQ Rittenhouse is a shining example of what can be achieved when a collaborative, dedicated, public-private partnership is forged to renew, revitalize, rebuild and repurpose, providing live-work-play for all to enjoy, construction and permanent jobs, and income for our beautiful city of Philadelphia,” said Aquinas Realty Partners President Leonard S. Poncia at the ceremony.

Representatives of all the partners involved were present for the ceremony, both on the stage in the Friere gym and in the audience. Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (D-3rd District; West Philadelphia) represented the city; Friere student Tyrone Williams represented the school, and Center City Residents Association Jeffrey Braff represented the community.

Braff praised the developer’s early and extensive engagement with the community. “The developer and developer team were just terrific to work with. They came to us early in the project, before things were set in stone, and they actually listened and incorporated a lot of the ideas that were offered by the experts on our task force. It really was a collaborative effort, and I think that’s why nobody’s protesting outside today.”

“I cannot describe to you how bad of a building [the YWCA Annex] was,” said Mayor Nutter in his remarks. “There are many, many challenging properties, but this particular property, literally located wall to wall with a charter school where students are trying to get an education, was a terrible property. It will now be transformed into a beautiful property.

“By replacing this dilapidated property with a 110-unit apartment building, complete with restaurants, retail shops, and our top-notch charter school, this project is taking a major step towards the revitalization of the 2000 block of Chestnut Street, but much of Chestnut Street will benefit from this project.”

AQ Rittenhouse is slated for completion in the fall.