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PHILADELPHIA-Trinity Capital Advisors has agreed to pay $90 million for a 75-year ground lease on the full Center City block known as Girard Square, which is bounded by Market, Chestnut, 11th and 12th streets. The landowner is Girard Estates, representing this and other land that was bequeathed to the city by early local entrepreneur Stephen Girard and is overseen by the board of directors of City Trusts.

Estate managers called for RFPs on the prize parcel this June when it was valued at $75 million. Conshohocken-based Trinity outbid several contenders for the right to develop and operate the land. “We’re local,” says Ken Kearns, Trinity VP, “and we understood the value of the land and all the different uses that would be possible.”

The track of land has a lot of potential for development.

“It can accommodate between 2.5 million sf and four million sf of development,” Kearns tells GlobeSt.com, “and the possibilities include hotel, office, residential and obviously retail along Market and Chestnut. It’s an incredible opportunity to develop a full city block, in a location between City Hall and Independence Mall, that the city has long wanted to see developed.”

He estimates the full development cost “could go over $1 billion,” and says Trinity would likely partner with others on the hotel and residential components.

“The deal is structured to allow us to take our time, and we plan to be very patient in the process,” he says. “We’ll work with the city and all interested groups, including Thomas Jefferson Hospital, the Convention Center and others.” The block currently contains four buildings aggregating 850,000 sf, which Kearns says is 90% leased.

It includes the two-story 210,000-sf Market Street building; the 13-story, 110,000-sf Stephen Girard office building, which was built in the late 1800s and has recognized historical significance; the 110,000-sf Family Court office building, and a garage on Chestnut Street which has some office and retail space. Although there is no timeline, first on Trinity’s agenda will be the renovation of the Market Street building, which Kearns says, “needs a lot of work.” The building will remain retail.

Proceeds from the lease go to Girard College, also part of the estate. “We couldn’t be happier with this transaction, not only for the clear benefits it produces for Girard College, but also for the positive impact it will have for Philadelphia,” says John Egan, president of the board of city trusts, in a statement. Paul Levy, executive director of Center City District, also applauded the deal. The CCD recently unveiled what it called a dream plan for revitalization of Girard Square and other parcels along Market Street East.

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