The Frankford Chocolate Factory site on Washington Avenue has been sold to developers who are said to be planning a mixed-use project, the latest move to bring homes, shops, and offices to the industrial strip.
On Monday, the 100,000-square-foot property at 21st Street was sold to a consortium of buyers that plans to develop the site, said Robert Fahey, an executive vice president at commercial real estate services firm CBRE in Philadelphia.
One of the buyers, Anthony Nguyen, confirmed the acquisition but declined to provide other details.
Planners and developers are seeking to recast western Washington Avenue, now largely factories and warehouses, as a mixed-use corridor to sustain growth along Center City's southern fringe.
Other projects include Bart Blatstein's proposal for a 1,600-unit, 32-story tower with lower-level retail space at Broad Street.
The Frankford Chocolate property's redevelopment would provide a conduit for revitalization from the increasingly affluent Graduate Hospital area into the Point Breeze neighborhood to its south, said Fahey, whose company represented a court-appointed receiver charged with selling the site.
"It's going to have a pretty big impact on the neighborhood," he said. "It's just been a major blight, this dilapidated, boarded-up hulk of a building surrounded by gentrification."
The sale ends years of uncertainty about the site, which was purchased in 2007 by New York-based property mogul Truong Dinh Tran, who planned to renovate the building into a Vietnamese-themed development.
The 126-year-old factory, where workers produced chocolate rabbits and other confections in its most recent incarnation, was among the assets being liquidated in receivership amid litigation over Tran's estate, Fahey said.
He did not know whether the buyers planned to reuse the 241,000-square-foot structure or demolish it and build new. The building is not a protected historic site.
Though the site received permits for the residential units, restaurants, and other uses anticipated as part of the Vietnamese center, planning officials have recommended a zoning change that would give Washington Avenue developers more flexibility to build mixed-use projects.
Lauren Gilchrist, Philadelphia research director at commercial real estate services firm JLL, said she would expect new development on Washington to include ample retail that could serve residents of the neighborhoods flanking the corridor.
Stores such as Kermit's Bake Shoppe at 22d Street have seen steady business from people living nearby, she said.
"The vibrancy from the neighborhood-serving retail perspective is already proving out," Gilchrist said. "It makes the case that there's a need for more along such an improving artery."