500 Walnut

Article by Eric Toll, GPA Ambassador

For decades, the address 500 Walnut remained empty. For many would-be investors, the location had proved too tough to build on. Up until Cecil Baker + Partners found the opportunity. The initial constraints posed have even led to the building’s beauty. Now, it is one of Philly’s most sought-after residences, and its sale of the bi-level penthouse for $17.85 million is the most expensive residential real estate transaction in Philadelphia.

500 Walnut sits just behind Independence Hall on World Heritage Way. An already popular location for residential real estate, condos in the area are priced between $3.1 million and $9 million.  However tempting this location may be, it also proved difficult to build on. For one, the size of the lot is small, the building is a mere 50 feet wide. Additionally, it sits directly east to the Pennsylvania Insurance Company, a building with eastern facing windows.

Like many modern buildings of our era, the building takes advantage of as little space as it’s given. When first walking along Walnut, the building remains largely hidden to the eye except for its modern windowed-façade reaching the 4th floor. The full extent of the building becomes visible only when standing directly in front of it. From this angle, one can see the full extent of the 26-story building; it’s largely tinted-blue window exterior and its angled contours gives it an impression of a much larger skyscraper. Yet from this angle, one can see how remarkably this building succeeds in avoiding its neighbors.

Yet the building feels huge. It can occupy 35 residents and is equipped with world class amenities such as a full-size lap pool, a conference & billiards room, separate housing for guests, and a fully automated, underground parking system that even charges electric cars. At the condominium’s grand unveiling, Bucks County based developer commented that, “We strove to build a world-class building, the likes of which Philadelphia has not yet seen.”

He went on to say this building was the pinnacle of his career - though he is not finished yet. He plans on continuing the partnership with architect Cecil Baker. The duo is already in the works on a Society Hill project which he expects will outdo this current project. Scannapieco is particularly interested in pushing the limit on what is possible in this regard, and quipped that the next project will be a ‘real modern building.’

500 Walnut represents an intersection between old and new. The ultimate difficulty was preserving heritage and aesthetic of Independence Hall against the demands of a modern world-class condominium. The end result was a condominium that has struck the perfect balance between the two.

Click here to see pictures.