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PHILADELPHIA-In order to overcome neighbors’ objections to construction of NewMarket condominium on a 1.5-acre parcel in Society Hill, the tower has been scaled back to just 19 stories containing 130 units, plus eight townhouses. This compromise has come after more than a year of negotiations.

World Acquisition Partners, the parent company of locally based Sant Properties, acquired the vacant land two years ago for $10.5 million from a company headed by actor Will Smith. That company, Treyball Development, had obtained approval for an 11-story W Hotel, but abandoned its plan following the 9/11 attack.

The earliest condo design by locally based Daroff Design called for a tower of between 31 and 40 stories containing as many as 173 units. The newest iteration is also more slender than earlier plans and will leave 42% of the parcel open for a park. As the building has shrunk, construction costs have risen.

“The newest plan calls for exactly the same amount of interior space, 250,000 sf, as the approved hotel plan did,” Ravi Chawla, president of World Acquisitions Partners, tells GlobeSt.com. The construction cost for the earlier NewMarket condo plan was estimated $100 million. Now, Chawla projects it “at $110 million in 2006 dollars.” Although he has won the approval of neighbors immediately surrounding the project, he is still facing opposition by some members of the Society Hill Civic Association. Nevertheless, he plans to apply for rezoning approvals this month, anticipates obtaining them by January for a groundbreaking in March 2007. Construction, he says, will take about 28 months.

“I believe this is the best use of this land, and certainly preferable to a hotel, which brings a transient population and traffic, or retail,” he says. “We are now preserving an eyesore–a very valuable hole in the ground. We’ll find some solution. We’re not going to miss this train,” he says, referring to the current Center City condo boom.

Chawla acknowledges that NewMarket is late for the train, and that some other Downtown condo projects have been put on hold. Still, he believes, “this is a one-of-a-kind location. I’m not concerned about sales.”

The 130 units in the tower include 18 studio and junior one-bedroom layouts ranging from 440 sf to 660 sf; 18 one-bedrooms of 920 sf; 56 two-bedrooms at 1,800 sf; 26 three bedrooms at 2,080 sf; and four duplex three- and four-bedroom units ranging from 3,500 sf to 4,000 sf. The eight 3.5-story townhouses are 2,940 sf. In April 2004, Charles Naselsky, now with the Blank Rome law firm and World Acquisition’s lawyer, told GlobeSt.com, pricing would be approximately $900 per sf. Chawla now says unit prices will likely exceed that and reach to as much as $1,200 per sf.

World Acquisitions and its affiliates are prolific acquirers and redevelopers in Philadelphia. Among its other projects are redevelopment of the former Locust Club at 16th and Locust streets and the former Pincus Brothers factory building at Fifth and Race streets.

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