Beer hall is coming to University City as developer Brandywine looks to enliven its enclave
The developer is teaming with New York-based restaurateur Branden McRill on a game parlor-beer hall mashup that will fill 7,000 square feet on the ground floor of its massive parking structure along 30th Street.
Brandywine Realty Trust is aiming to lure crowds to its expanding — but still somewhat sleepy — University City high-rise district with Skee-Ball, beer, and buffalo wings.
The developer is teaming up with New York-based restaurateur Branden McRill on a game parlor-beer hall mashup that will fill 7,000 square feet on the ground floor of its massive parking structure along 30th Street, between the Evo student apartments and FMC Tower office, residential and hotel building.
Named the Post in honor of the historic former postal building nearby, the venue — to be entered through garage-type doors on 30th Street south of Chestnut Street — is set to open in mid-January.
Owner McRill, a partner in Walnut Street Cafe inside FMC Tower, has hired Richard Cusack, a former chef at Le Bec Fin, to devise a menu of beer-friendly foods such as meatball sliders, chicken wings, and chili-cheese waffle fries, and is outfitting the space with shuffleboard, Skee-Ball, basketball, virtual golf, and classic video and arcade games.
Brandywine hopes the restaurant, which it’s spending $5 million to build, will give people another reason to linger in the area, in addition to the public plaza it constructed atop the parking garage and the new park it is completing just west of Amtrak’s landmark 30th Street Station building.
“This reflects another level of investment for us," Brandywine chief executive Jerry Sweeney said. “It provides people another place to eat, another place to gather, meet friends after work or on the weekends."
Starting with its Cira Centre office tower north of 30th Street Station in the early 2000s, Brandywine has transformed what was once a strip of empty lots and aged buildings along the Schuylkill’s western bank into an enclave of gleaming glass high rises flanking the former 30th Street main post office, which it restored into offices for the IRS.
But the area continues to see little round-the-clock foot traffic, despite being just over the river from bustling Center City and beside the student-thronged campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.
As Brandywine prepares to enlarge its development footprint in the area through its 14-acre Schuylkill Yards project, it’s trying to change that.
So far, it has built the 1.25-acre Cira Green plaza atop the garage structure, which offers expansive views of Center City and features a 50-foot-by-30-foot outdoor video screen — the city’s largest, according to Brandywine. Next year, Brandywine plans to open a restaurant with outdoor seating on the plaza as a sibling to the Post, Sweeney said.
It also broke ground in late 2017 on a 1.3-acre landscaped park at 30th and Market Streets, between the train station and the former Bulletin newspaper building, which is being updated into offices for University City-based gene therapy company Spark Therapeutics Inc. as part of the Schuylkill Yards project.
Catherine Timko, chief executive at the Riddle Co., a retail consultancy, said the Post can be seen as another move toward getting people used to spending time in the area to make it more fertile ground for new development.
Sweeney is “building a sense of place,” Timko said. “That’s actually very important, as they’re really repurposing this neighborhood.”
The Post will be outfitted with a long, double-sided bar serving cocktails and 16 kinds of beer. Other menu items are to include pulled-chicken sliders, mini-cheesesteaks, popcorn chicken, macaroni and cheese, and barbecue-chicken nachos.
Games such as Connect Four, Cards Against Humanity, Drunk Stoned or Stupid, and Trivial Pursuit will be stocked at each of the venue’s dining tables. Weekends will feature music by live bands and DJs astride a platform high above the dining room.
McRill said he wanted the Post to the area’s business community, with a private event space accommodating 100 people, as well as its college population.
“We’re in University City and I wanted to create something accessible and approachable,” he said.