Headlines: Cecil Baker Tells It Like It Is at Civic Design Review

Screenshot of 401 Race perspective rendering | Image via Phila.gov

Screenshot of 401 Race perspective rendering | Image via Phila.gov

Cecil Baker is on a roll (not purposely, but still) and we love it! Just days after finding out his Candy Factory Home in Queen Village was sold, PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey brings us this account of a recent Civic Design Review meeting during which the renowned architect, a member of the Committee, told it like it was to a developer looking to put a 216-unit residential complex in Old City.

According to Brey, Priderock Capital Partners’ Head of Real Estate Development Christopher Todd went before the committee to unveil the design of 401 Race. The development would fall right off the rejuvenated Independence Mall area, smack near some of Philadelphia’s treasured historical structures.

Failing to meet Baker’s standards, which Brey writes was caused by the “disrespectful” would-be building materials (“a mixture of metal and synthetic paneling and brick”), the architect had some choice words for Todd about the proposed project (emphasis ours):

“You are on the most historic acre in the United States,” said Cecil Baker, pounding his hand against the conference table. “This is not a place for broken-down architecture.

“This building has to look like an important, civic-minded building …” said Baker, who has designed the luxury condo tower rising at 500 Walnut Street, as well as Carl Dranoff’s One Riverside development on the Schuylkill. “Go back to the architecture and think about what it means to be on Independence Mall. It has got to be a great goddamn building.”

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Stop the Presses: Cecil Baker’s Candy Factory Home in Queen Village Has Sold

TREND images via Redfin

TREND images via Redfin

These days, you’ll see the name of renowned architect Cecil Baker attached to crazy awesome skyscraper projects. Heck, you might even come across some of his on-the-market residential work if you’re lucky. But prior to Baker becoming an architectural favorite, there were the early days that some recent grads might benefit from hearing (lift their spirits, you know?).

A 2008 article on Residential Architect recalls Baker’s humble beginnings in Philadelphia and the familiar “can’t find a job in my field” lurch in which he and three colleagues found themselves. The dearth in available design work, it seemed, could only be remedied by taking matters into their own hands.

From the Residential Architect:

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At Last! 4224 Baltimore Avenue Project to Be Reviewed by the City

View from NW corner of 43rd Street & Baltimore Avenue. | Rendering by U3 Ventues, Cecil Baker + Partners, Bryan Hanes. | Image via phila.gov

View from NW corner of 43rd Street & Baltimore Avenue. | Rendering by U3 Ventures, Cecil Baker + Partners, Studio Bryan Hanes. | Image via phila.gov

An update for those who’ve been following the 4224 Baltimore Avenue saga: The mixed-use project has finally reached city review level! After being in limbo for what felt like ages, West Philly Local now reports three April hearings have been scheduled “at the City government offices at 1515 Arch Streets.” The public is encouraged to attend, the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting being perhaps the most crucial of the three. Dates and times below.

In addition to getting support from the Friends of Clark Park neighborhood group (they really liked the plan), WPL says the proposed 132-unit structure has been approved by the Spruce Hill Community Association and the University City Historical Society. We thought you might want to see the latest rendering and schemes of the project headed by developer U3 Ventures (and designed by architects Cecil Baker + Partners and Studio Bryan Hanes), so we went ahead and put them all in a gallery below– what do you think?

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Morning Headlines: Stalled Apartment Project Near Clark Park Will Meet the Neighbors, Again

Rendering of 4224 Baltimore Avenue. Photo credit: U3 Ventures.

Rendering of 4224 Baltimore Avenue.
Photo credit: U3 Ventures.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Developers of an apartment project at 4224 Baltimore Ave. will meet with the community to discuss their plans for a 132-unit mixed-use complex. Well, that will be the case again tonight as the Zoning Committee Spruce Hill Community Association will officially hear what more developers U3 Advisors have to say about the stalled project at 43rd and Baltimore Ave. near Clark Park, reports West Philly Local.

The project evolved from a series of neighborhood meetings and was discussed at an open meeting of Spruce Hill zoning last spring. Now that a formal application has been made, the project development team, U3 Advisors, are required to have public meetings with neighbors through community associations.

You may recall that the developers had been meeting with and seeking input from neighbors before having a design for the project, something that even the venerable Inga Saffron marveled at in one of her features of the project.

Saffron’s other feature explains why this project hasn’t seen any movement since April: councilmanic prerogative. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell had refused to sign off on zoning changes to the site in order for the above design (with retail and upscale, non-student oriented apartments) by Cecil Baker + Partners to be built.  Instead, as Saffron points out, the project could only be made profitable under current zoning with a “blocky, three-story apartment house that would be crammed with dormlike units.”

In other words, stay tuned.

A meeting Monday for community input on the big 4224 Baltimore Ave. project [West Philly Local]

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Morning Headlines: 500 Walnut Gets Design Approval Recommendation


500Walnut-Rendering-new copy The proposed 500 Walnut tower that would overlook Independence Hall may have already received zoning approval, but its developer and architect still had one more group to convince for its design last week. This past Friday, they got just that as the Philadelphia Historical Commission gave the newly tweaked building an approval recommendation.

PlanPhilly’s Matt Golas reports Cecil Baker, the architect chosen for the Scannapieco Development project, presented his alterations before the commission, the commission’s Architectural Committe and the Philadelphia Art Commission. Changes included a proposal for the use of “greenish glass and metal curtain walls, with areas of stone classing to the base” and “a mix of metal-frame windows and multi-story window walls” for the upper floors.

Baker’s adjustments to 500 Walnut comes from input he received from commission members, local residents and the National Park Service. Here’s more from PlanPhilly: Read more »

Architype: Lush Life

500 walnut street

Rendering of Cecil Baker design for 500 Walnut Street.

Developer Tom Scannapieco has spent his career surrounded by skeptics — or his career since 1974, at least, when the self-described “urban pioneer” bought property near Spring Garden and created the Wallace Court Condominiums.

He faced doubters again with Waterview, New Hope’s first ultra-luxury residence. “The papers could not believe you could sell million-dollar homes in New Hope,” says Scannapieco. But the houses were gone before the ink on the brochure was dry.

He confronted perhaps his hardiest naysayers with 1706 Rittenhouse, which held its groundbreaking the same week in 2008 that Lehman Brothers went under. Between the building’s record price point and its so-called “B location” (near Rittenhouse Square, but not directly on it), the brokerage and development communities were skeptical. “They’re not in the business of being visionaries,” Scannapieco says. “They only know what they’ve seen work.” Fortunately, 1706 worked. Even during the downturn, it never had to reduce its pricing, and it’s now completely sold out.

Perhaps that’s why there’s so much support for Scannapieco’s latest project, 500 Walnut: a 26-story tower, designed by architect Cecil Baker, that will face Independence Hall. Based on 1706’s success, the brokerage community believes in this venture.

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Another Cecil Baker Home for Sale

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One would imagine that a fully stocked 500-bottle wine cooler in the basement would already make for a pretty Zen-like existence. But just in case you need a little more encouragement toward mindfulness, this Cecil Baker-designed Society Hill townhome offers both. Plus, there’s two-car garage parking to really ensure you never feel stressed trying to find a space in Society Hill.

Renovated in 2011, the corner property boasts natural light everywhere. In addition to the indoor-outdoor living space (more on that in a minute), there are windows on three sides of the home and a central light column. The first floor features a gourmet kitchen with the typical luxury finishes (a Viking stove, corian counter, cherry cabinetry). A-typical luxury finishes include two (two!) Asko dishwashers and a Kitchen Aide trash compactor. Off the kitchen and dining space is a living room with a wall of Nananwall doors that open to the Zen courtyard. That space boasts Brazilian Ipe wood and Mexican river stones along with a custom stainless steel waterfall. For entertaining, the space also features a built-in gas grill and a Bose surround system. Read more »

Newly Listed: $1.27 Million Townhouse Designed By Cecil Baker

314-316 Fitzwater Street, Philadelphia, PA

314-316 Fitzwater Street, Philadelphia, PA

As per the title, this three-story home nestled in Queen Village was designed by renowned architect Cecil Baker. Baker, who studied under Louis Kahn, was last in the news for his renderings of a 26-story glass tower planned for 500 Walnut by Scannapieco Development, as well as his recent urban-friendly redesign of Carl Dranoff’s One Riverside at 25th and Locust.

This early Baker structure is from the ’80s and includes a two-story living room with exposed bricks and beams, a fireplace, and hardwood floors. The tiled eat-in kitchen includes a separate dining room with an adjacent office space and access to a private garden.

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Morning Headlines: Ultra-Luxury High-Rise Tower Designed By Cecil Baker

Screenshot of 5th and  Walnut corner via Google Street View

Screenshot of 5th and Walnut corner via Google Street View

If the road to acquiring all the necessary approvals goes smoothly, Tom Scannapieco’s plans for a $150 million residential tower near Independence Hall could begin construction in spring 2015. The 26-story high-rise would include 40 condo units with two penthouses, each of them two stories. Availability is projected for March 2017.

Scannapieco, who developed the condos at 1706 Rittenhouse Square, has hired architect Cecil Baker to design what is being called the “glass needle” tower. However, given the building’s proximity to historical landmarks, certain design requirements must be considered. The Inquirer’s Al Heavens writes, “As a result, the building is designed not to interfere with ‘an onlooker’s view from the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall,’ Scannapieco said.”

Rendering below…

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