IRS site on Roosevelt Blvd. is sold; another mall coming? An unidentified buyer bought the land, now zoned for industry.

Posted: March 15, 2007

Another industrial site on Roosevelt Boulevard has sold, this time to an undisclosed buyer, raising the possibility that another shopping center on the busy thoroughfare may be on the horizon.

The 11501 Roosevelt Blvd. site is part of a complex leased by the federal government for use by the Internal Revenue Service. Under plans announced in 2005 by then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, which have not been implemented, the IRS would leave Northeast Philadelphia.

Under the Santorum-backed plan, the operations there, which employ 5,100 people, would move to the Main Post Office at 30th and Market Streets, in University City. That space was left vacant when the U.S. Postal Service opened its new mail-sorting and distribution center near Philadelphia International Airport.

The IRS campus is part of the 650-acre Philadelphia Industrial Park, one of many sites totaling 2,000 acres developed over the last 49 years by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., a city economic-development agency.

The PIDC's first deal, in 1959, involved the old Whitman Chocolate Factory, near the IRS complex. That site was rezoned for retail several years ago and is now the Whitman Square Shopping Center.

An adjacent part of the IRS complex, a 430,000-square-foot building at 11601 Roosevelt Blvd., recently was acquired by Cedar Shopping Centers Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust, said John Grady, senior vice president of the PIDC.

"A shopping center REIT would not buy the site unless it has plans to build a shopping center," Grady said.

This worries the PIDC, Grady said. "Our inventory of land for industrial use is below 300 acres now, the lowest it has been in decades," he said in an interview yesterday.

He said the PIDC might oppose rezoning for retail land that has the utilities, roads and other infrastructure for next-generation industrial uses.

"The industrial opportunities are different from the 1950s and 1960s, but they still represent a tremendous opportunity for economic growth," Grady said.

The site just sold has been owned since 1985 by members of the Binswanger family, who also own the Philadelphia-based Binswanger Cos. global real estate firm, which manages the property.

Frank Binswanger Jr., co-chairman of the real estate firm with his brother, John, said the sales agreement specified that he identify the buyer only as "11501 Roosevelt Partners L.P."

He said he could not even disclose the type or location of the company behind the deal.

The site the Binswangers sold includes 15 acres and a 230,000-square-foot air-conditioned building that was built in 1970 for the book publisher J.B. Lippincott Co.

The site, next to Northeast Philadelphia Airport, is near the U.S. Route One entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and not far from its interchange with Interstate 95.

Contact staff writer Henry J. Holcomb at 215-854-2614 or hholcomb@phillynews.com.

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