Developer Sean McGovern is under contract to acquire a mostly vacant lot near the Delaware River waterfront at Fairmount Avenue, where he plans to build a 482-unit apartment complex, while preserving a strip of rowhouses at the site.

McGovern’s plan for 700 N. Delaware Ave., which was presented to the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association this week, calls for two horseshoe-shaped buildings that would nearly fill the block bounded by Delaware Avenue and Front Street, between Brown Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Hercules Grigos, a lawyer for McGovern, said the developer has not yet formally applied for permits for the project at a property now mostly used by long-haul bus operators for vehicle storage.

Artist's rendering of apartment complex planned at 700 N. Delaware Ave., as seen looking northwest at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Fairmount Avenue.
JKRP Architects
Artist's rendering of apartment complex planned at 700 N. Delaware Ave., as seen looking northwest at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Fairmount Avenue.

The proposed buildings, rising seven stories at their highest points, would be separated by a walkway lined with ground-floor retail and office space that approximates the position of what was once Beach Street, according to renderings.

The project involves the preservation of a strip of historically protected Federal-style rowhouses from the early 1820s that line the Fairmount Avenue-facing edge of the 1.2 acre property.

It also includes 147 parking spots, partly in enclosed garage space on the buildings’ first floors, partly in open-air surface lots surrounded on three sides by the U-shaped structures. The parking lot surrounded by the easternmost building would face Delaware Avenue, where it would be visible to passersby, though the western building’s lot would be largely blocked by the historic rowhouses.

McGovern has in the past been involved in projects in the Brewerytown and Fishtown areas and in Center City, according to his website.

The project is the latest to be proposed along the fast-developing northern half of central Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront.

The Durst Organization, based in New York, said earlier this month that it has completed its acquisition of a 1.6 acre city-owned lot just north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, where it plans an apartment tower.

The company aims to break ground on the 25-story tower with 10,000 square feet of retail space during the first three months of 2021, it said.

The property, between Vine and Callowhill Streets on North Christopher Columbus Boulevard, is separate from an assemblage of piers directly across the street that Durst acquired in 2017, which it has yet to begin developing. Those piers house waterfront restaurants including Dave & Buster’s and Morgan’s Pier.

McGovern’s site is also about a block north of the property owned by the city and known as Festival Pier, where Jefferson Apartment Group and Haverford Properties have been working for years on a plan for a complex of apartment buildings surrounded by open public space.