When talking about One Riverside, developer Carl Dranoff tends to speak in hyperbole.
"This building is probably the most outdoor-friendly high-rise building in the history of this city—and maybe in all of North America!" he exclaims.
To his credit, Dranoff is on a high: Wednesday marked the topping off of his 22-story residential tower, the first condo high-rise built from the ground up in Center City since 2008. And at the moment, he's standing on the 18th floor of the building, staring out toward the Center City skyline.
Since breaking ground in 2015, it's been a quick one-year rise for One Riverside. But for Dranoff, this project has been nearly two decades in the making.
"Actually, I’ve owned the site for 18 years. When I bought Locust on the Park, this was the parking lot. I always knew at some point when I was ready that this was going to be a major project," recalls Dranoff. "And if you had asked me five years ago, I would have said this would be a great apartment site."
As the market began to change, however, so did plans for the site. "We knew there was an undersupplied condo market and we knew that was the highest investment," says Dranoff. "This site was a highly specialized, one-of-a-kind site."
The issue was finding an architect who would be willing to take on the task of designing a high-rise that wouldn't obstruct views on one of the most coveted spots along the river.
It took one sketch to convince Cecil Baker to be that person. "Initially, Dranoff approached me to do a feasibility study on building on top of Locust on the Park," Baker recalls. "And in the process, I was showing him various ways the building could grow on the site. He then sketched a triangle, the shape of this site, and drew one line."
"This changed my whole reading of Carl Dranoff," says Baker. "Because that is the right way a place is built. In the city, whenever you're on an asset like a waterfront, you should take your narrow shoulder to the asset and let the city sweep in front of you front and back."
The result: A $112 million narrow building that, as Baker describes it, "looks like a slender dancer on the edge of the water with one foot in front of the other." The glass exterior allows the building to blend in with its surroundings, reflecting the "blues and greens" surrounding the property.
But it's still another year until we see truly see the end result. Dranoff says they're building from the bottom up, and expect to have the first seven floors and public spaces finished in March 2017, followed by the next seven floors in May. The final 8 floors will be complete in July.
Sixty percent of the property is already sold, with many of the future residents—mostly empty nesters moving back from the 'burbs—combining multiple units into one. In fact, although the building was originally slated to feature 82 units, Dranoff expects that there will be 68 total come 2017. They'll range from $700,000 to $6.5 million.
Dranoff peers over the railing, looking down toward South Philly and beyond. "We really can see that this is William Penn’s green country town," says Dranoff. "This really is the greenest part of town."