The lot at 205 Race as of June 2014 | Google Street View
The long and winding road of the 205 Race development in Old City looks as though it’s about to reach an important milestone. You might even call it groundbreaking (pun intended).
After years of planning, controversy and multiple design tweaks, construction permits were recently posted on the site at 2nd and Race, the longtime home of a surface parking lot.
The permits provide a glimpse of what exactly is to come–a 17-story building with parking in the basement level, a retail space on the ground floor and 146 “dwelling units.” We haven’t heard an exact date for the groundbreaking, only that one is currently being planned.
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As home values start to pick up and Philadelphia enjoys its first significant growth spurt in a long time, a different story unfolds for those on the lower end of the income spectrum.
In her latest “Changing Skyline” column, critic Inga Saffron writes that while the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods push up prices, inclusionary housing tends to fall by the wayside, even when developers promise to include subsidized units in their buildings.
Inclusionary housing, which is basically an “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours ” deal, involves developers pricing some of their apartments for below-market rates in favor of receiving zoning bonuses. Some do it, most don’t. As Saffron points out, the number of market-rate residences outweighs affordable housing in the area:
You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.
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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]
A new rendering of 205 Race Street, courtesy of the developers
The 197-foot 205 Race Street apartment tower to be located near the Ben Franklin Bridge has a long and acrimonious history. The developers, Jeffrey Brown and Greg Hill, have owned the site (now a vacant lot) for a decade, and this is their third attempt to develop it. In 2012, a version of the tower was opposed by the (now defunct) Old City Civic Association, which argued that its scale didn’t fit the historic neighborhood.
Inga Saffron weighed in, in favor of the tower, and City Council ended up passing a bill designed to allow it to go through.
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First, the Old City Civic Association was less than happy about its height. Then, complicated zoning matters stalled progress, topped off with Keystone Outdoor Advertising getting miffed because the building would block one of their billboards from view. So will this third attempt finally see a conclusion to the planned 205 Race development?
According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the Historical Commission’s architecture committee will review the latest plans for Brown Hill Development’s mixed-use project this Tuesday.
Plans include “148 rental units, 28 parking spaces, 51 bike parking spaces, and more than 14,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.” Additionally, architect Peter Gluck had addressed KOA’s cries by adjusting the building’s design to keep the billboard in view (it’s even featured in the newest renderings).
And that’s not all:
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New York architect Peter Gluck could not have imagined what he was getting himself into when he conceived a design for 205 Race Street, a 16-story mixed use building proposed for a vacant lot. Last summer Gluck came in from New York for the day to talk to the Old City Civic Association (OCCA) about the high-rise, which would have ground-floor retail and 128 rental apartments.
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