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City considers zoning options after Destination Maternity leaves

Philadelphia's loss of Destination Maternity Corp. headquarters has generally been viewed by city officials as a negative turn of events. The company will take its operations to South Jersey in the fall, and the move means a loss of 600 jobs in Philadelphia.

However, the roughly eight acres of real estate the company will leave behind poses some prime investment opportunities. The property is already zoned for industrial purposes, but options are being considered to rezone for a variety of uses, including offices, retail and residential development.

The city is considering three possible approaches: allow a zoning variance for whoever ends up buying the property; rezone the entire neighborhood; or rezone only the property, which includes a large parking lot and the large main structure at Spring Garden and Fifth Streets.

A major challenge with the property is that it stretches for about 800 feet with no intersection, and to remedy the problem, the city is considering building new streets. More than 50 years ago when the area was zoned for industrial use, intersections were eliminated, and one proposal currently being considered would bring back cross streets and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

The property is close to the river wards and downtown, and the nearby Northern Liberties and Old City neighborhoods are already zoned for mixed uses. The rezoning of the Destination Maternity parcel is seen as the right move by city officials.

Planning commercial real estate projects of any size requires due diligence and an accurate assessment of the risks. Some acquisitions are more challenging than others, and to limit liability and avoid possible disputes, developers should take the necessary legal steps and seek the help of a real estate attorney.

Source: Philly.com, "Seeing Destination Maternity's departure as an opportunity," Maria Panaritis, April 6, 2014

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