Developer Southern Land Co. plans to replace an aged four-level parking garage near Rittenhouse Square with a 27-story apartment tower, betting that rental demand will recover from the coronavirus pandemic by the time the project is completed years from now.

The proposed 299-unit building, outlined last week in a presentation to the Center City Residents Association, would rise on the 1600 block of Sansom Street, taking the place of the garage with ground-floor retail tenants that include a branch of the Federal Donuts fried chicken chain.

Dustin Downey, Southern Land’s senior vice president for residential development, said that the country “will hopefully have COVID well into our rear-view mirror” when the project is ready for residents in 2½ years, at the earliest.

“The market for Philadelphia will always return, particularly in this location,” he said of the upscale neighborhood in western Center City, which has some of Philadelphia’s highest rents and property values.

The 1608 Sansom St. project was designed to meet the area’s land-use regulations, so it needs no variances or other relief, Southern Land officials said. But the developer was able to build higher than otherwise allowed by those regulations because Southern Land is contributing nearly $2.5 million to the city’s fund for affordable housing, qualifying it for a mixed-income “density bonus,” said Peter Kelsen, a lawyer for the project.

Artist's rendering of apartment tower planned at 1608 Sansom St. by developer Southern Land Co.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Artist's rendering of apartment tower planned at 1608 Sansom St. by developer Southern Land Co.

Southern Land aims to present the proposal next month to Philadelphia’s Civic Design Review board, which offers non-binding suggestions on the city’s biggest development proposals as part of the government’s building-approval process.

The tower, which is designed with a facade of glass, metal and burnt-red cement panels, will also have nearly 16,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on its bottom two floors, as well as an underground garage with space for 67 cars.

Southern Land’s other projects in the city include the Laurel, a 48-story condo and apartment tower under construction beside Rittenhouse Square at 1911 Walnut St.