We’re not sure whether this was one of Carl Dranoff’s goals for his new South Broad Street exclamation point, the SLS International Hotel and Residences, but we’re sure he couldn’t be more pleased if he had planned this from the outset: for the first time since he turned his attention to the Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron has tossed a bouquet to a Dranoff building’s architecture.
Saffron has always given Dranoff props for his business savvy and his commitment to creating lively urban environments, and her review of the SLS tower in today’s Inquirer is no exception. As she wrote, Dranoff “seems to possess a sixth sense about where the real estate market will go next.” His Avenue of the Arts debut, Symphony House, was an example of that sixth sense at work, and as Saffron notes again in her review today, the project got the urbanism right, packing enticing commercial spaces at the street level and finding top-flight tenants to fill them.
But her disdain for the "pink-hued, milk-bottle-shaped" apartment tower - a building that wants badly to be its Modernist self but instead comes off as a Drake Tower wannabe - became well-known.
Since then, she writes, his projects on South Broad have wandered all over the map, from the amped-up Art Deco of 777 South Broad to the unassuming Southstar Lofts. Her assessment? He can't figure out what the Avenue of the Arts wants to be when it grows up. (In terms of function, we think he's very clear about that, to be honest.)
With the Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed SLS tower (rendering below), Saffon writes, South Broad will finally grow up. And she spares neither praise nor metaphor in her assessment of the 47-story tower, whose slender profile she calls "as leggy as a fashion model" and whose massing calls to mind "a flash drive plugging into its USB port."
The tower, she says, rises head and shoulders above Center City's current crop of residential skyscrapers both literally - at 567 feet, the hotel-condo complex will be the city's tallest residential high-rise - and architecturally, and she is even bold enough to predict that it is simply a harbinger of more supertall residential towers to come.
Which would indeed be transformative - a word often used to describe Dranoff projects. It's certainly transformed her opinion of Dranoff as a style-setter. We look forward to walking into the Dranoff Properties office at 777 South Broad someday and seeing a framed copy of this review on the reception-area wall.