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Whale Flops: Big, Huge, Enormous Projects That Tanked

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Ever wish the city had an aerial tram or movie studio? So have others before you. In honor of Whale Week, all regional Curbed sites takes a look at some of the biggest Whale Flops in their cities. Only Philly has Philaphilia's Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week series, however, where many of these images and much information came from.

? Flop: Gateway Center South
Whale Behind It: Rimas Properties
Address: 1001 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia
Samir Benakmoume of Rimas Properties was one in a long string of developers proposing projects on this corner. In 2007, the developer originally proposed an insane project based on New York's Time Warner Center. Hawthorne neighbors had a coronary but eventually worked with Rimas to propose a scaled-down version later that year. Councilman Frank DiCicco proposed the necessary zoning changes and everything looked ready to go in September 2007. No one heard another peep until the property was foreclosed on in 2008. Meanwhile, Benakmoume built the 1352 Lofts nearby, embroiling himself in a PR nightmare when locals realized the building didn't immediately offer handicapped access.


?Flop: American Commerce Center
Whale Behind It: Garrett Miller, Walnut Street Capital, Hill International, Liberty Property Trust
Address: 1800 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA
Garrett Miller and Walnut Street Capital first wooed the city with promises of a new skyscraper in 2007, when they purchased the parking lot on Arch Street. In 2008, opponents from the nearby Kennedy House -- joined by then-Sen. Vince Fumo -- made their complaints at a city Planning Commission meeting. Meanwhile, Hill International took over as developer, and joined proponents of the project at a second Planning Commission meeting. The commission recommended the necessary zoning changes and height-restriction rollbacks to allow the project to continue and at the end of 2008, City Council voted unanimously to approve necessities for the construction. Hill International searched for an anchor tenant for months and the zoning variance -- set to expire on January 1, 2011 -- was extended to January 2013. Liberty Property Trust convinced GlaxoSmithKline to move to the Navy Yard, leaving the ACC without a featured tenant. In August 2011, the barren parking lot was sold to Liberty Property Trust for $45 million, essentially dashing the city's hopes of a 1,510 foot-high skyscraper.


? Flop: Liberty Landing
Whale Behind It: Local 19 of Sheet Metal Worker's Union and Mark Mendelson
Address: 1301 Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia PA
Local 19 and Mendelson teamed up all the way back in 1988 to conceive this behemoth. Originally scheduled for completion in 1991, plans went nowhere until 2002 when the team announced plans for an even bigger site. Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates was due to act as architect. Plans again went nowhere. Meanwhile, Mendelson was convicted in 2008 for bribing a bank official in a separate Montco real estate deal. He was sentenced to house arrest last year and fined $1 million. Prosecutors were considering looking to the Liberty Landing property as a potential source of compensation.


? Name of Flop: The Unknot Tower
Whale Behind It: Gagandeep Lhakma and CREI
Address: 1122 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA
This project surfaced in March 2008 -- inauspicious times to announce a real estate deal -- and has hardly been heard of since. Gagandeep Lhakma's Creating Real Estate Innovations has since been forced to dump its properties at sheriff sales, most prominently the American Loft space in Northern Liberties.

Flop: World Trade Square
Whale Behind It: Carl Marx Real Estate Group and Waterfront Renaissance Associates
Address: Callowhill and Columbus Ave., Philadelphia PA
Carl Marx Real Estate bought up land along Columbus Boulevard from Callowhill to Noble spanning nearly five and a half acres. Construction seemed imminent in 2006 until neighbors ("neighbors") in Old City insisted on a 65-foot height limit in and around the neighborhood, killing a number of projects including World Trade Square. Waterfront sued the city in 2007, but the case didn't actually go to trial until 2011 -- a year after the city rolled back the height restriction. Now there's no height restriction and no looming construction.


? Flop: Mandeville Place
Whale Behind It: Bedrock Group LLC
Address: 2401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Construction was set to begin in March 2008. Blame this flop squarely on the economy, which crashed and killed the project even as it seemed like contractors were about to get started.

Flop: Silver City Studios
Whale Behind It: Will and Harry Smith, aka Treyball Development Corp.
Address: Broad and Washington, Philadelphia PA
The city gave the OK for a $100,000 feasibility study in July 1999, just a few years after Will Smith punched an alien in the face in Independence Day. Ed Rendell himself suggested the location for the Smiths' 2 acre film and music studio site, slated to open in fall 2002. Then it turned out the site needed to be bigger, FOX 29 backed out of its plan to move in and the plan was as good as dead.

Flop: Bridgeman's View Tower
Whale Behind It: Mark F. Stein and Ryan Roberts, aka 2945 LLC
Address: 900 N. Delaware Ave. Philadelphia PA
Announced in 2007, groundbreaking was slated for November of that same year. When no progress had been made well into 2008, people started to get nervous. Despite developer Ryan Roberts announcing that the deal was not dead in April '08, no one has heard anything since.


? Flop: Skylink Aerial Tramway
Whale Behind It: Delaware River Port Authority
Address: Penn's Landing
In 1997, DRPA announced that it would build a sky tram to ferry people back and forth from Penn's Landing to Camden, all for less than $15 million in three years. Fast forward to December 2000, when the Port Authority began building the foundations for the tram's towers in Penn's Landing as a way to incite development at the languishing site. Soon timelines and budgets ballooned (estimates ranged from $46 million to $100 million), the entertainment complex meant to anchor the tram on the Philadelphia side died, and Camden neighbors began mobilizing aginst the project. DRPA unceremoniously dropped the whole idea some time in 2004. Now we're left with literal foundations to nothing and a big banner reading "Welcome to Penn's Landing."


? Flop: Q Condominium
Whale Behind It: Gagandeep Lhakma and CREI
Address: 622 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA
This building was another casualty of foreclosures handed to CREI in February 2009. Foreclosure was the deathblow after a string of other incidents including disagreements with contractors and residents and tax collection issues. Technically, the building is still approved and on the market for $3.3 million but the site has been quiet since foreclosure.