Two years after breaking ground, developer Tom Scannapieco’s 500 Walnut, which is on track to become the priciest and swankiest condo tower in Philly, officially topped out today.
“This represents a moment at which the city is at ease with its past as well as its future,” architect Cecil Baker said at the ceremony, which included everything from a colonial drummers and pipers playing “Yankee Doodle Boy” to a speech by a Thomas Jefferson impersonator.
A refresher on the 500 Walnut: It’s one of Scannapieco’s—and the city’s, for that matter—most exclusive, luxurious residential projects to date, with just 35 residences in the entire 26-story building. There are only one or two residences per floor, and a robotic car-parking garage brings resident’s vehicles to them.
Even in the earliest stages of the project, 500 Walnut gained attention when rumors surfaced that Beyonce had bought the property’s penthouse. While that ultimately proved to be false, the project continued to turn heads when in June 2016, the sale of its penthouse for $17.85 million became the most expensive residential transaction in the history of Philadelphia.
The property was the last-remaining site for development around Independence Mall, and there were plenty of government agencies and community stakeholders who had to be convinced of the project, including the National Parks Service.
“500 Walnut came alive with a friendly environment, with community support,” Baker said. “The National Parks Service and all of the government agencies had a large part in creating the shape of this building.”
The skinny tower, constructed by Intech, sits on the corner of 5th and Walnut, almost hugging its modern neighbor at 510 Walnut. The angular shape of the building allows it to hide from view when visitors at the Liberty Bell look toward Independence Hall. But residents will have views of the park from a 4,000-square-foot terrace that sits at tree-line level.
Scannapieco said of Baker’s design, “Cecil is the number one reason why I took this project on.”
Intech’s William Schwartz called it “the most complex concrete super structure built in this city.”
Mayor Jim Kenney was also present for the topping off. He commended Scannapieco and Baker for bringing Philly into the “next level of development and design,” but he also used the platform to speak to the city’s tax abatement program, which exempts owners of new construction from paying taxes on the value of the improvements for 10 years.
Kenney said that while the future residents of 500 Walnut will only have to pay taxes on their properties prior to the new construction, in the end they will likely be paying income taxes and high transfer taxes. “I know that the one property that sold for 17.8 million [...] will pay something like $528,000 in transfer taxes. That is an unbelievable number.” He then quipped, “After 10 years, I don’t know what in god’s name in real estate taxes will be like here.”
Before today’s topping out, 500 Walnut had more than $100 million in sales, with two-thirds of the building currently sold. One of the condos is on the market for $6,959,000, making it one of the priciest homes for sale in the city.
Schwartz said that there’s still “ways to go” on the project, but construction should wrap up by the end of summer or early fall.