Hard Hat Tour: The View From Vue32

Architect's rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Architect’s rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Ground was ceremonially broken one week ago for Vue32, the new apartment tower Radnor Property Group (RPG) is building and will manage for Drexel University at 32nd and Race streets. But a recent hard-hat tour of the site reveals that work on the foundation and substructure is well under way.

RPG President David Yeager led us on a hard-hat tour of the construction site and explained why the slender 16-story tower looks the way it does and how all the pieces of the project, which also includes a row of townhouses, fell into place.

Yeager worked with Drexel President John Fry on a series of redevelopment projects on and around the Franklin & Marshall College campus in Lancaster, and now that he’s back in Philly, Fry has turned to Yeager and his company again to help him carry out Drexel’s master campus plan. The Vue32 project advances two key elements of it: reducing the pressure on off-campus housing in Powelton Village by providing more apartments for members of the Drexel community and promoting homeownership by Drexel faculty and staff in the neighborhood as well. Read more »

Report: Blatstein Offered $18 Million for Vacant Lot at Broad & Washington

The vacant lot on the northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

The vacant lot on the northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

Developer Bart Blatstein agreed to pay $18 million for a vacant lot at the corner of Broad & Washington under a contract with the property’s owner that’s now in question, according to a report in the Inquirer this morning.

Blatstein and representatives of N/H Philadelphia Properties, a New York-based real estate investment firm that owns the lot, met in court on Tuesday. The owner is seeking to send Blatstein on his way empty-handed, claiming that the agreement of sale expired on May 15. Blatstein, who got approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to build a 32-story apartment tower and rooftop retail village on the site Tuesday, still believes he’ll be able to build his project.

$18 million for a vacant lot, y’all. Though the property is assessed at $5.2 million, the owners say they’ve already received offers that exceed $18 million from other parties. Blatstein’s lawyers said that the owners are trying to cut off Blatstein while exploiting the process he went through to get additional zoning approvals on the property, according to the Inquirer.

Lawyer: Blatstein Doesn’t Own Broad & Washington, Can’t Seek Zoning Approval

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington | Photo via Google Street View

A lawyer for N/H Philadelphia Properties, the New York real estate company that owns the long-vacant lot at the corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly’s Hawthorne section, has sent a letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment saying that developer Bart Blatstein has no legal right to the property and asking the board to hold its decision on the zoning approvals Blatstein is seeking for 30 more days.

For two years, Blatstein’s development company, Tower Investments, has been pursuing a project at the corner involving a 32-story apartment tower and a rooftop retail village. The zoning board heard his application for special exceptions last month, but opted to hold its decision for two weeks. It later voted to approve the project, then decided to vacate that vote because two weeks hadn’t passed. At a meeting last week, when the board was scheduled to take its final vote, two board members were absent and no vote took place. Read more »

How 1213 Walnut Will Play Nice With Fergie’s

1213 Walnut, Sansom elevation

This rendering of the Sansom Street elevation of 1213 Walnut Street was produced on April 12 by the Design Collective.

Ever since it was first announced by its previous developer, it’s been known that the mixed-use apartment/retail building now rising at 1213 Walnut St., popularly known as the “Fergie Tower,” will envelop the two-story Fergie’s Pub building on Sansom Street.

But up until now, we haven’t seen just how the building will envelop it. Previous project architect TEN Arquitectos, which U3 Ventures had chosen to design the tower it proposed to build, never released to the public renderings of the Sansom Street side of the building.

We now have them, courtesy the Design Collective, the Baltimore-based architect co-developers Hines, the Goldenberg Group and ASB Real Estate Investments chose to design the project they rescuscitated when delays due to opposition from Fergie’s and near neighbors, and then the Great Recession, prevented U3 from proceeding. Read more »

The Divine Lorraine, Getting Ready For Its Closeup

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a "check-in counter" for today's open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a “check-in counter” for today’s open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Around the turn of the last century, when the four buildings developer Eric Blumenfeld is in the process of reconstructing were built, North Broad Street was the address of choice for Philadelphia’s new money. The streetcar magnates and captains of industry who built mansions along this street staked it out after the city’s old-money Establishment around Rittenhouse Square shunned them.

The mansions have all vanished from the scene, but today, North Broad Street is witnessing another influx of new money, this time in the form of millions of dollars being invested in its redevelopment as a live/work/play environment. Four buildings, all owned by Blumenfeld, are serving as the linchpins of that transformation, building on his earlier success with conversion of a factory to loft apartments and a former car dealership into restaurants and a catering hall.

Blumenfeld, his chief financier William Procida of Procida Funding and Advisors, and commercial real estate agents Dominique Casimir and Jackie Balin of CBRE Fameco led a group of about 20 interested parties and two reporters on a tour of the four buildings this morning. Read more »

Johnson Calls for Construction Moratorium at Broad & Washington

West elevation

The west elevation of the revised Blatstein mixed-use project. Rendering | Cope Linder Architects

On Wednesday, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to approve developer Bart Blatstein’s plans for a 32-story apartment tower and rooftop retail village on a vacant lot at Broad and Washington in South Philly. Then, later, it realized it had jumped the gun by voting just one week after the zoning hearing, at which time it had said it would hold its decision for two weeks. So it vacated its vote and will presumably vote to approve the project next week.

But on Thursday, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson—who opposed the project when it went to the zoning board—introduced a bill that would put a one-year moratorium on construction of any kind on that property. Read more »

City Board Approves Blatstein Project, Then Says Nevermind

1001 South Broad

The revised design for Bart Blatstein’s Broad and Washington development, which received the special exceptions he sought from the ZBA today. Rendering | Cope Linder Architects

After saying it would need two weeks to mull over everything developer Bart Blatstein presented at its April 26th meeting, the Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday voted to grant the two special exceptions Blatstein sought for his mixed-use residential/retail/office development at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue. Then, later in the same meeting, the board reportedly decided that it should wait until it said it would vote and vacated its earlier decision.

A Philadelphia Inquirer news report stated that board chairman Jim Moylan could not be reached for comment on why the board went ahead and voted a week before it said it would. A source who remained until the end of the meeting to hear another case later reported that shortly before that last case, the board members recused themselves, then came back and announced that they had to vacate the earlier vote because their earlier vote to continue Blatstein’s case for two weeks had to stand. Read more »

New Temple Library To Get Huge Green Roof

The green roof atop Temple's new library will combine functionality with beauty. Rendering | Snøhetta

The green roof atop Temple’s new library will combine functionality with beauty. Rendering | Snøhetta

Thanks to a low-interest loan from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the new Temple University Library will have an eco-friendly place for browsers through its one floor of open book stacks to relax and read.

The university announced yesterday (May 3) that it has received $6.7 million in financing from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) that will allow it to install a green roof, permeable paving, rainwater harvesting cisterns and stormwater piping on top of the library. This infrastructure will keep water from flowing into North Philadelphia’s already overburdened sewer system when rain or storms pass through the area. Read more »

Two South Broad Street Projects Up for Design Review


Two perspective views of the Cambria Hotel, to be built at Broad and Locust streets. Renderings | DAS Architects

Two perspective views of the Cambria Hotel, to be built at Broad and Locust streets. Renderings | DAS Architects

Mama Angelina’s was a reliably cheap and middle-of-the-road pizza joint at Broad and Locust, the type of eatery that’s steadily vanishing from Center City.

This afternoon, the Civic Design Review Committee will have a look at its replacement: Cambria Hotel & Suites, a 14-story, 222-room hotel from developer Pearl Properties. The project involves demolishing the parking garage on Broad Street, just north of Perch Pub. The garage would be replaced with the hotel tower. The proposal would maintain the scale of the Perch Pub building on the corner; it would also maintain the billboard on top of it. The project is designed by DAS. Read more »

ZBA Wants Time to Digest Blatstein Proposal

The Civic Design Review panel was as critical of Bart Blatstein's revised proposal as its neighbors have been of the original. Perhaps he should go back to the drawing board? | Rendering: Cope Linder Architects

So far, no one’s been happy with Bart Blatstein’s 1001 South Broad proposal. The developer gave the ZBA so much material that it wants two weeks to mull it all over. | Rendering: Cope Linder Architects

Bart Blatstein will have to wait two more weeks to find out whether he has permission to pursue his vision for a rooftop retail village and 32-story apartment tower with garage parking for 600 cars on a long-vacant lot at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, at the southwest corner of Hawthorne. The zoning board opted to hold a decision on the project while it considers the “excessive information” presented at a hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

Blatstein is seeking two special exceptions from the zoning code to build 1,000 apartments and 625 parking spaces on the lot. At the hearing, community members objected to the project over a host of concerns, while zoning board chairman Jim Moylan tried to limit their comments to the two issues before the board: the above-ground parking garage and the retail uses on the roof deck. Steve Cobb, a lawyer in Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office, also testified that Johnson is opposed to the project in its current form. Read more »

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