In response to claims that the project has been opposed by many in the community, Carl Dranoff wrote an editorial for the Main Line Times today, in which he attempted to clarify some aspects of the plan that seem to have been lost in the bickering. Of course, he puts everything quite delicately, but as someone who was once in a PhD program for Translation Studies, I feel qualified to at least attempt a rendering into regular-person talk, i.e., the kind of thing I imagine he says at home, head in hands, when the frustration gets to be too much.
Carl Dranoff’s various Ardmore plans, first proposed more than a decade ago, have caused controversy for almost as long. So it wasn’t surprising that discussion of the residential/retail proposal for Ardmore at last night’s Lower Merion Township Building and Planning Committee meeting was “raucous,” as the Inquirer‘s Carolyn Davis put it. Things devolved into personal sniping, with words like “boorish” and “venomous” being thrown around. (Davis writes that things started getting ugly last week with a string of emails — which, alas, no one leaked to us.) The meeting didn’t end until after 1 a.m.
What’s known among Main Line residents as the “Cricket Lot” project — real name: One Ardmore Place — involves an apartment building with 121 units and roughly 8,000 square feet of street-level retail space fronting Cricket Avenue. Carolyn Davis boils down years of debate:
Critics say the project is too big for its site and neighborhood. Proponents claim it would boost downtown Ardmore by drawing young residents to live in a transit-friendly building near the train station.
A zoning bill that would make things easier for Carl Dranoff to build his proposed SLS International Hotel was approved by City Council’s Committee on Rules yesterday. These revisions permit Dranoff to build on more land without having to seek additional zoning approvals.
Sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla, the bill amends certain chapters in codes “Overlaying Zone, “Development Standards,” and “Parking and Loading.” In response to the suggested revisions, the Washington Square West Civic Association sent Squilla a letter. According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the group’s board agreed to not fight the bill, “provided certain agreements are made with respect to noise and activity at the hotel and other matters of operation.”
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.
Judging from the presence not only of Kenny Gamble, founder and CEO of Universal Companies, but also of his negotiating team at Tuesday’s formal unveiling of Dranoff Properties’ SLS International Hotel and Residences project, the record exec-turned-community developer and the master developer continue to maintain a strong working relationship. The two have long been partners in real estate deals, including Symphony House (left), Southstar Lofts and 777 South Broad. And now Gamble has agreed to sell two lots he owns at Broad and Spruce streets to Dranoff in order to make his project possible.
When we asked Gamble about the status of the Royal Theater, which remains uncertain amidst both a conservatorship challenge and a still-pending petition to demolish most of the structure, his response suggested that Dranoff may have ideas for the space. Though Dranoff has said he is only acting as an advisor to Gamble’s Universal Companies on the Royal, it seems possible that he may be considering more involvement.
In April developer Carl Dranoff told Property’s Shannon Rooney, “The best is yet to come on South Broad Street. Later this year, look for a big announcement… We have several equation-changing projects for the city.” He was undoubtedly referring to the news that broke on Hidden City on Nov. 20th: that the company would build an SLS boutique hotel/luxury condo tower — SLS International — at Broad and Spruce.
Yesterday Hidden City broke the news that developer Carl Dranoff has a new project planned: Avenue Place, a 40-story mixed-use hotel-condo tower on the corner of Broad and Spruce. Hidden City’s Bradley Maule suggests that both the building that once held Utrecht Art Supplies and Philadelphia International Records (301-309 S. Broad) may be demolished as well as the building across Cypress Street (311 S. Broad).
Carl Dranoff’s Southstar Lofts, slated to open in spring 2014 at Broad and South, will have 10,000 square feet of ground-floor space for retailers and restaurateurs. Today Dranoff Properties sent out a release promoting the location to potential interested parties, noting that with 85 luxury apartments, the businesses will have a built-in customer base.
In the statement, Dranoff says: “Our desire to bring outstanding restaurants and retail to Southstar Lofts cannot be understated. The space at ground level has been properly vented for a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen but can also work to accommodate any retailer that wishes to make this new address along the Avenue of the Arts its home.”
Developer Carl Dranoff has two projects that are being challenged by nearby residents. The first challenge is to One Riverside, a 21-story tower at 25th and Locust designed by architect Cecil Baker, which has been embattled from the start. From PlanPhilly:
Since its proposal, One Riverside has generated protest and petitions from near-neighbors, as well as questions from some about whether the property should be developed at all.
The latest obstacle is more technical: an appeal of Dranoff’s conditional zoning permit, which I could explain but unsurprisingly involves parking, like every NIMBY battle, and I just refuse to go there. At any rate, it sounds like the appeal, which will be heard by the Zoning Board on Oct. 23rd, isn’t worrying Dranoff much.
Dranoff’s attorney, Peter Kelsen, said he is glad that the controversy over the project has at least narrowed…Kelsen said that a discussion about the legitimacy of the FAR bonus is preferable to the more existential question of whether a building should be there at all.
The other challenge regards One Ardmore Place, which has inspired so much ire, THERE’S A MOVIE ABOUT IT. No point in going on and on myself when you can watch the movie, which is called The Parking Lot:
Yesterday the Civic Design Review board assessed Carl Dranoff’s plans for his proposed 20-story One Riverside tower on 25th Street and gave the residential building a final seal of approval. Inga Saffron, writing for the Inquirer, said, “The unanimous decision cleared the way for developer Carl Dranoff to start construction next fall.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy about the decision, including some of the members of the Schuylkill River Park Community Garden, which will now be 8 feet away from the mixed-use high-rise. Other disgruntled parties?