Ridge Flats development 'one step' closer to reality

Ridge Flats, the innovative and long-awaited residential development planned in East Falls, is apparently moving forward with a stronger financial foundation. 

Grasso Holdings, which partnered with the developer Onion Flats, purchased the property on the 4300 block of Ridge Avenue earlier this month, according to Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation.

"That was awesome. They got enough to purchase the building," Snyder said. "I don't know if they have the entire financing package to go forward, but it should mean it will be easier to get the funding."

Grasso Holdings, which did not return requests for comment, had become the managing partner on Ridge Flats to secure the equity and debt for the project, Snyder said.

"We see this as moving one step closer," Snyder said. "We're not celebrating yet — we'll wait until the shovel is in the ground. But we're optimistic, and we're doing anything we can to help them."

Innovative plan

The property off Kelly Drive at the foot of the Falls Bridge had been the site of The Rivage Ballroom. Redevelopment of the vacant parcel has long been the goal of the East Falls community. An earlier proposal fell victim to the recession and the sagging real estate market.

In 2011, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority chose Onion Flats to build on the site. Two years later, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved an innovative proposal by the developer for a five-story building with 140 apartments, commercial space, and a public garden.

The Ridge Flats plan was anticipated as one of the most innovative housing developments in the city, with its "net-zero energy" design. The plan called for solar panels on the roof and other features that would reduce energy use by the building.

The East Falls Development Corporation and the Community Council both embraced the project. Construction was scheduled to start in early 2014.

But financing apparently stalled, and the shovels never arrived.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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