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PHILADELPHIA-Following a competitive bidding process, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has agreed to sell the L-shape Center City parcel bordered by Walnut, Sansom, 19th and 20th streets to Castleway Properties LLC for just north of $36.7 million. The location near Rittenhouse Square makes this prime real estate, and its future use has been mired in controversy.

In the late 1990s the Authority proposed a development that called for demolition of some historic buildings on the land to make way for a mix of retail and restaurant space that also included a six-story garage. This met with stiff competition from neighborhood groups that took the Authority to court. In 2004, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, prompting the Authority to put the parcel out for bid.

Dublin-based Castleway outbid local developers and the Houston-based Hanover Co. by just $90,000, Carl Ciglar, deputy executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, tells GlobeSt.com. “They got a very valuable piece of land in an outstanding location.”

There is now surface parking, a funeral home, café and seven-story apartment building on the lot. Castleway couldn’t be reached by deadline, but Ciglar says, “They won’t complete a plan until they’ve talked with the community. They have an idea of what they’d like to do, which is likely to include high-end living quarters and/or a hotel with lower-level retail, but they are committed to arriving at a plan that will be approved by the community.”

This is Castleway’s second major buy in this area. In October 2006, it paid $33 million for the 134-acre Airport Business Park just south of Philadelphia International Airport. As GlobeSt.com reported, Castleway plans to redevelop the existing park, which has 17 buildings aggregating 1.5 million sf of office, flex and industrial space. It is also developing a master plan that would expand the park by as much as another one million sf.

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