Morning Headlines: NIMBY Drama Stirs Up Between Residents and Swarthmore College

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Three things are set to happen once construction ends on the new development Swarthmore College has commissioned: First, more books will be available; second, the borough will get its first liquor license; third, Route 320 (Chester Road) will see a shift in traffic flow. Two of these are unwelcome changes for some Swarthmore residents.

As the Inquirer’s Laura McCrystal reports, an inn, bookstore, and roundabout are going to to be constructed in the area, the latter development starting this week. Hopes for the roundabout, which is planned for the intersection of Chester Road and Rutgers Avenue, include it “improv[ing] a dangerous intersection and connect[ing] the college to its community.”

However, opponents of the roundabout see it a different way: Read more »

Commission Approves Digital Signage on Market Street

A new rendering of 205 Race Street, courtesy of the developers.

The city’s Historical Commission has given the go-ahead to three landscape-changing projects in the area: signage for the Market Street side of the former Strawbridge & Clothier, the 205 Race Street development, and an addition to the former Warner Brothers Film Distribution Center.

In terms of 801 Market Street, PlanPhilly reports the Commission voted in favor of  “exterior marquee, awnings, banner signs, and lighting on the Market Street façade of the western half of the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store building.”

The lengthy going-back-to-the-drawing-board cycle for 205 Race has ended with the Commission’s approval of its most recent design. Construction on the mixed-use property, which will include 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and basement parking, is one step closer to reality.

The tower addition for the former Warner Bros. building on 13th and Florist also passed muster, following the Architectural Committee’s July recommendation for its approval — provided developers hew to five conditions. From PlanPhilly:

1. Details of the panel system, glazing, canopy, parapet wall, garage door, and fence are submitted;
2. Color samples of cladding materials for the addition in relation to the historic materials are submitted;
3. It is confirmed that the roof of the historic building will not be occupied;
4. Designs of any railings to installed on the roof of the historic building for occupancy are submitted; and,
5. The locations and configurations of all HVAC equipment are submitted.

• Historical Commission approves Warner Bros. building redo; 205 Race St. construction and 801 Market signage [PlanPhilly]

Morning Headlines: Flipping the Conventional Wisdom on Renters

Photo by Michelle W. via Flickr.

Photo by Michelle W. via Flickr.

Kellie Patrick Gates parses a hefty city planning commission survey at PlanPhilly this morning. Among the findings that might surprise you if you still subscribe to antiquated notions about renters: they are “highly committed” to their neighborhoods; many choose to rent despite their ability to buy; and the most highly committed renters in Philly appear to live outside Center City.

Among the findings that night not surprise you:

Other factors that respondents said kept them from buying included some Philadelphia-specific criticisms: School quality (31 percent), taxes (29 percent), the feeling they could get more house for less money outside the city (27 percent).

The report also found that Center City renters love exactly what you think they’d love. Restaurants, amenities and walkability. Renters in neighborhoods outside Center City cited closeness to friends and family as behind their decisions to rent where they do.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: More Info On Planned W / Element Hotels Coming Next Week

Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

1441 Chestnut. Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the developers of the planned W and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut (currently a parking lot) don’t need zoning variances to build their project. For this reason, their meeting with the Center City Residents Association next week, where they will present their new designs, will be for informational purposes only.

Here’s what to expect of the double tower:

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED Certification for the building.

Lenfest, if you recall, caused waves last year when he requested (and got) $33 million in tax breaks for the project.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Roof Collapses At For Pete’s Sake Pub Building

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

Nobody was hurt, but that was a close one! The building that houses For Pete’s Sake Pub in Queen Village partially collapsed yesterday around 3:30pm. According to Philly.com, L&I is looking into what could have caused the roof of the three-story property (with apartments on the top two floors) to fall through.

Thus far, L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said “a zoning permit for interior renovations of the second and third floors” was granted to Peterbuilt Construction back in June. That permit was changed a few weeks ago to include floors and stairs, and an L&I inspector paid a visit to the site just last week to go over “building and fire safety with the contractor.”

No violations have been found at the site.

L&I probes partial building collapse in Queen Village [Philly.com]

In other news…

Read more »

Post Bros.’ Goldtex Building Gets a “Neighborhood Tavern”

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

According to Zagat as reported in Foobooz, the Goldtex apartment building’s ground floor will soon be getting a restaurant. Mike Welsh, formerly of Franklin Mortgage and Lemon Hill, will open Brick & Mortar — “a neighborhood American tavern” — sometime in November in what’s currently 3,500 square feet of raw space.

One issue with Goldtex has been its location–what people call, variously, the Loft District, Eraserhood, or Chinatown-ish–Philadephians have a hard time seeing that area as warm and neighborhoody. But it sounds, from Welsh’s talk with Danya Henninger for Zagat, that the restaurant/bar’s vibe hopes to change that:

Read more »

McIlhenney Mansion’s Dome to Be Demolished

Photo by Brad Maule via Hidden City.

Photo by Brad Maule via Hidden City Daily.

An item in today’s Center City Residents Association email newsletter says demolition will start soon on the double-parcel McIlhenny Mansion at the southwest corner of Rittenhouse Square, now owned by developer Bart Blatstein. And there will be some changes:

When the dust has settled, the one story curved brick façade and dome at 1916 erected in 1957 will be gone. The planned replacement is a four story 47 foot high addition. The addition’s roofline will match that of the mansion’s other property, 1914 Rittenhouse Square, erected in 1859 with three stories capped by a one story mansard roof with dormer windows. The façade of 1914 is to remain unchanged. The mansion’s back entrance on Manning Street currently consists of a single story structure, a garage with a double width door adjacent to a servant’s entrance. The plans call for a two story structure on the western end with bedrooms atop two oversize garage entrances. On the eastern side, the addition will rise a third story above Manning Street.

Below, the plans included in CCRA’s email.

Plans via Center City Residents Association

Plans via Center City Residents Association

Morning Headlines: Building Implosion Rescheduled

queen lane apartments

The vacant public housing tower in Germantown that was going to be imploded on Sept. 14 will now be blown to bits on Sept. 13th instead. Generally, the city tries to do demolitions on Sundays, but has responded to the community’s request that it be Saturday instead, according to PlanPhilly:

At a Thursday night public meeting inside Mt. Moriah Baptist Church — located just steps away from the doomed building — Samantha Phillips, the city’s director of emergency management, said that Mayor Michael Nutter approved a request to move the building’s implosion forward by one day…

“We spent time going to risk management, the police department and other partner agencies to make sure we can do this just as safely on Saturday, and we absolutely can,” Phillips said. “There might be a few more resources out there, but we’re going to get it done.”

Read more »

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