Morning Headlines: New Details on Comcast Skyscraper

Rendering of CITC. Photo courtesy of Comcast Corporate.

Rendering of CITC.
Image via Comcast Corporate.

After getting the regulatory process over three months ago, construction will soon begin on the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a joint project between Comcast and developer Liberty Property Trust.

The future 18th and Arch tower will include a Four Seasons Hotel with 222 rooms, as well as office space for the broadcasting/cable bigwig, which, according to PBJ’s Natalie Kostelni, made some changes to its lease:

Comcast has expanded the amount of space that it will occupy. The cable giant signed a 20-years lease on 982,275 square feet, or about 74 percent of the 1.33-million-square-foot building. It had initially taken 957,000 square feet.

The 59-story structure, to-be the city’s tallest tower (and the tallest building outside of New York and Chicago), has a $933 million price tag, of which $40 million comes from public city and state funds. The latter amount “will go toward infrastructure improvements, such as extending the subway concourse.”

Comcast skyscraper construction begins; new details emerge [Business Journal]

In other news…

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Is Frank Gehry Really “Apollo Creed-Level Bad for Philadelphia”?

Art Museum and expansion, seen in section. (Philadelphia Museum of Art/Gehry Partners)

In a City Lab piece titled “Philly: Let’s Talk About Frank Gehry,” Kriston Capps writes that Gehry “might be Apollo Creed-level bad for Philadelphia.” Them’s fighting words. Literally.

Capps’ commentary coincides with today’s opening of Gehry’s exhibit at the Art Museum that shows the architect’s plans for his expansion (renderings below), which includes a reworking of the famous “Rocky” steps. So far, the reaction to the expansion has been muted; if anything, it seems to be a relief that we won’t be getting some kind of crazy glass octagonal, pyramidal, Pythagorean, cut-glass, sharp-edged bean pod. Gehry’s interior changes sound — from Inga Saffron’s review of the plans — like they’ll make navigation of the museum and access to the artwork better.

In fact, Capps agrees that even Gehry haters “may find plenty to admire in his plans for the Art Museum. Frankly, it’s not very Gehry.”

So it’s not the architecture per se that engenders this comparison to Apollo Creed. It’s the role Gehry has been chosen to play within what Capps sees as a problematic context. He writes: “Cultural expansions aren’t necessarily a great investment for a city in 2014, and this one almost certainly isn’t.”

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Developer to Break Ground on Texas Donut

Aside from residential projects, the Village will include retail, office, and entrainment spaces.

Aside from residential projects, the Village will include retail, office, and entrainment spaces.

Some interesting ideas are floating around Realen Properties, and you’ll see what I mean when you hear about this: The developer’s latest project at the Village in Valley Forge is a four-story residential building with 363 units and a parking lot, according to the Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni.

Sounds normal enough, right? Well, I’ll let Kostelni tell you the other part:

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Midday Headlines: Saffron Says One Water Street Design Isn’t Good Enough

Rendering of One Water Street via PlanPhilly

Rendering of One Water Street via PlanPhilly

Better…but not good enough. That’s how Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron feels about the new design for One Water Street, a residential project planned for the north side of the Ben Franklin Bridge by PMC Property Group. So while the developer is aiming for a July groundbreaking — something the Civic Design Review board will determine at a hearing this Tuesday — Saffron has her fingers crossed for it not to happen. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Facade is better than earlier renderings, but still not good enough:

    “Clad in a random pattern of blue and gray aluminum panels, it may be the most dispiriting apartment facade since you-know-which pink tower on Broad Street. The patterning makes no sense, nor does the big flat blank expanse on the all-important Arch Street corner. There is almost zero modulation to give the surface texture and shadow. If it weren’t for the windows, you might mistake it for those mountains of shipping containers you see near ports.”

    That “pink tower on Broad Street” she’s referring to is the Symphony House, which she called “the ugliest new condo building in Philadelphia” back in 2007. Yikes.

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Rex Avenue Arts & Crafts Residence By H. Louis Duhring

208-210 Rex Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.

208-210 Rex Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.

In 1893, even prior to attending architecture school at Penn, Philadelphia architect H. Louis Duhring worked for one of the more notable architects of his day, Frank Furness (as in Frank Furness who designed Hockley Row, the Baldwin School, and Furness Library), etc.

Duhring must have learned something during his time with Furness because in 1897 he became the first recipient of the Stewardson Traveling Scholarship. The award granted him time in Venice, Italy, where he did extensive sketching. (His drawings from this time period would be used to rebuild the bell tower at St. Mark’s Square after it collapsed in 1902.)

When Duhring returned to Philadelphia in 1898, he started his own firm, and then entered a collaboration with R. Brognard Okie and Carl A. Ziegler under the name of Duhring, Okie & Ziegler. Eventually, Okie and Ziegler left, but in the firm’s early years, they focused on residential development, so that by 1910, Duhring was designing homes for Dr. George Woodward, the developer of St. Martins and Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. (More Duhring info here.)

Duhring played a partial role in the design of this home on Rex Avenue, which he once owned. The front portion of the house is in the 1860s Victorian Italianate “summer” house style, but Duhring designed a four-story wing in the Arts and Crafts style when he was the homeowner. His addition makes the property viable for more than one use: single-family home, multi-unit building or subdivision for new single-family dwellings.

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Will Philadelphia Get Its Own Space Needle?

PHL Local Gaming — one of the five contenders for that ever elusive casino license in Philadelphia — has announced a potential new feature for its LoSo Entertainment Center: a 615-foot-tall Skyspire with rooftop restaurant and observation deck, both of which would be reached by gondola. The tower would be designed to look much like Seattle’s Space Needle, though it would be 10 feet taller (take that, Seattle!).

The Skyspire wouldn’t be unique to Philadelphia. It’s made by U.S. Thrill Rides, which creates rides and attractions for places like Six Flags and MGM Grand. Michael Kitchen, president of U.S. Thrill Rides, has this to say about the company’s Skyspire:

“In addition to being a world-caliber amusement attraction and a stunning piece of architecture, the Skyspire also constitutes a ‘wow factor with class’ that appeals to the very young, to seniors and all other adult demographics.”

Here are more images of the Skyspire:

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Hugh Newall Jacobsen’s Meadowbrook Home Hits Market for the First Time

In 1998, Hugh Newell Jacobsen designed Life Magazine’s dream house. In the early ’80s, he designed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Martha’s Vineyard manse. Somewhere in between (in 1988), he designed Meadowbrook’s four-bedroom “Village of One’s Own.” Now, 16 years later, it’s on the market for the first time.

The eminent American architect has a modernist style and describes his influences as coming from “vernacular architecture of the American homestead.” Vernacular architecture prizes using local materials to meet local and regional needs. Jacobsen’s residential designs tend to center on pavilions that recall the separate outbuildings common in rural American architecture (think: barns, smokehouses, silos).

In Meadowbrook, this translates to the “Village of One’s Own,” which on the blueprint is identified as five separate pavilions. In actuality, they’re all connected through a variety of roof lines to create a single 4,500-square-foot-plus home.

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Happy Birthday, Charles Eames


You probably know the Eames chair. But there was more to Charles and Ray Eames than that. This TED talk, given by Charles and Ray’s grandson, is helpful and revealing when it sticks to the subject of their design history — and not uninteresting in other moments. Worth a watch:

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Frank Furness’ Lainshaw Is Now on the Market

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach

Designed in 1878 by famed Victorian architect Frank Furness, Lainshaw has the advantage of period charm that has been entirely renovated for modern convenience. The historic home sits on a darling, tree-lined lane and combines historic elements like trim and wainscoting with updates like a dual-bath en-suite in the master and a private meditation area.

The kitchen is probably the most modern of all the rooms in the 6,000-square-foot-plus home, having been updated with the usual high-end appliances, cabinetry and countertops. The first floor also features a wood-paneled library as well as a butler’s pantry. Upstairs the master includes a dressing room and two en-suite bathrooms. The study on the second floor overlooks the original Lainshaw nursery in the yard. The meditation space is also upstairs, alongside a laundry room as well as a media room (let’s hope they’re on separate ends of the hall).

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Open House at 2116 Chestnut on Thursday

2116 Chestnut. Image via the building's website.

2116 Chestnut. Image via the building’s website.

2116 Chestnut, the 34-story apartment tower near Rittenhouse Square that opened last summer, will host an open house on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will be held on the building’s rooftop deck, and will feature complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. There will be a DJ and tours of sample apartment units for all guests.

The slick glass 2116 Chestnut has 321 units and was built by the John Buck Co. of Chicago, with additional funding from the Indure Fund, a union-backed real estate investment fund, and the state of Pennsylvania. Electricians’ union chief John Dougherty played a major role in getting the project off the ground.

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