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What’s going on with South Street’s historic Royal Theater site?

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OCF is delivering apartments in 2020

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The redevelopment of a Graduate Hospital site, which once held the historic, African American Royal Theater, is well underway, and it could even see a major transformation as soon as this summer.

The site, on the 1500 block of South Street, is currently an empty lot, but it will soon see into an apartment building with 54 units ranging from studios to junior one-bedrooms, along with 4,500 square feet of commercial space, according to OCF Realty, the group overseeing the project.

The exterior of the new building is likely to be completed by the end of the summer, and construction will wrap up on some of the apartments by this time next year, Liz Scott, the Vice President of Development and Construction for OCF said Friday.

She added that they have a letter of intent from one commercial tenant, who hopes to occupy the entire commercial space when the building is complete.

All that remains of the original Royal Theater, which was the first black-run theater in the city, is its brick and stone South Street facade. Scott said the group is getting graffiti cleaned off the facade and installing historic-certified, wood frame doors and windows.

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the art deco theater, which was built in 1919 and shut down in 1970. The place lay abandoned for nearly 4 decades after it closed, and it fell into disrepair in recent years. In 2017, a visit to the site showed demolition was underway, with workers pulling down all but the historic facade.

Now, the lot is all but cleared—save for the facade and scaffolding—and OCF is planning a space for young professionals and others who want to walk to work in Center City, Scott said. She compares the new space to OCF’s other project at 1430 South Street, which opened in 2015.

Amenities for the new building will include a bike storage room and a roof deck with a green roof.

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