Toll Brothers Caught Up in Chester County Historic Preservation Fight

The arrows in this photo posted to the Neighbors for Crebilly Farm website point to where American Gen. Adam Stephen would have spotted Hessian soldiers marching across the farmstead from his vantage point at Sandy Hollow. Opponents claim a plan by Toll Brothers to build homes on the farm site would destroy an important piece of Revolutionary War history.

As if the low-grade fight over its proposed condo tower on Jewelers Row weren’t enough, Toll Brothers now finds itself in another historic preservation fight involving a housing development it seeks to build.

Call this one the Second Battle of Brandywine.

The battlefield for this one is a parcel known as Crebilly Farm, a 325-acre “gentleman’s farm” located just north of the main battlefield in Westtown Township. According to those fighting to preserve it, this farm is where the battle began: The first skirmishes took place on the farm on the morning of Sept. 11, 1777, when American Gen. Adam Stephen spotted Hessian troops marching across the farm from his lookout atop Sandy Hollow, where the main battle would take place. Stephen dispatched a party of soldiers to the farm to frustrate the Hessians’ advance towards the American position. Read more »

Historical Commission Kicks Jewelers Row Can Down the Road Again

The historic status of the buildings at 704-08 Sansom St. remains up in the air after Friday's Historical Commission meeting. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

The historic status of the buildings at 704-08 Sansom St. remains up in the air after Friday’s Historical Commission meeting. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

After an hour of contentious debate and impassioned pleas from local preservationists, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted 8-3 to continue postponing a final decision on adding the threatened structures at 704 and 706-08 Sansom Street to the city historic register until the status of Toll Brothers’ demolition permit applications is resolved.

Plan Philly’s report on the commission meeting noted that there was sentiment on the committee as well as among the preservationists who attended to rule on the merits of the applications anyway, even with the demolition permits in dispute. That way, commission Chairman Robert Thomas said, they would be protected should Toll’s demolition permits fall through. Read more »

CDR Panel Gives Toll Jewelers Row Tower a Mixed Review

The CDR panel's advice to Toll's architect: Make up your mind what kind of tower this is supposed to be. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The CDR panel’s advice to Toll’s architect: Make this building modern or make it neotraditional, but make it one or the other. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

Toll Brothers City Living’s proposal for a 29-story residential tower with ground-floor retail on Jewelers Row went before the design doctors yesterday (February 7th). Their diagnosis: The building suffers from a case of architectural schizophrenia.

Curbed Philly’s report on the Civic Design Review meeting indicates that only one of the members of the CDR panel, developer Leo Addimado, liked the proposed design. But even he urged Toll and project architect SLCE to make the design more frankly modern. Committee members referred to the structure as having split personalities throughout the meeting. Read more »

Toll’s Tower Design: An Almost Successful Compromise

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

Given that the controversial condo tower Toll Brothers City Living plans to build at the east end of Jewelers Row is a by-right project, it really wasn’t necessary for the company to meet with neighboring building and business owners to discuss its plans. But it did, and given what it was proposing to build and where, the natural question those neighbors, both supporters and opponents, had was: Well, what will the thing look like?

A lot of other people well beyond Washington Square West wanted to know too.

We all got that question answered at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee, where representatives of Toll Brothers’ City Living division and the project architect, New York-based SLCE, revealed renderings of the tower.

The result is a good news/bad news story. Read more »

Toll Takes Wraps Off Jewelers Row Tower

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Renderings: SLCE Architects

Toll Brothers City Living finally revealed what the condo tower it plans to build in place of three structures on historic Jewelers Row will look like before a packed meeting of the Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee at Thomas Jefferson University last night.

And to the surprise of Toll Brothers City Living Division Vice President Brian Emmons, most of those who attended liked the design produced by SLCE Architects of New York.

That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone liked the building. Several in attendance, most notably a group of residents of the buildings slated to fall, managed to make their displeasure known to the committee, Emmons, and City Councilman Mark Squilla both during and after the meeting. Read more »

The Top 5 Real Estate Stories of 2016

We still don't know what Toll others' proposed mixed-use tower on Jewelers Row will look like, but we do know its facade won't look like this, and that has the city's preservation community up in arms. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

We still don’t know what Toll others’ proposed mixed-use tower on Jewelers Row will look like, but we do know its facade won’t look like this, and that has the city’s preservation community up in arms. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

As we close the book on 2016, let’s take a look back at the year in real estate and development. What were the stories that got people’s attention this year? Here are our picks:

Toll Brothers goes tall on Jewelers Row and sets off a preservation fight.

A few years ago, Toll Brothers, the Horsham-based luxury home builder, decided to enter the urban development game with its City Living division. Urbanist critics loved to fault the builder’s Philadelphia projects for their notable lack of urban features like density and mixed uses. So when the company announced it wanted to build an apartment tower with street-level retail in Philadelphia, everyone cheered, right? Wrong, because the tower would replace three buildings on historic Jewelers Row. The fight to preserve the buildings pitted the preservation community against just about all of the property owners on the 700 block of Sansom Street, who see the apartment tower as giving their businesses a shot in the arm from a ready-made customer base. (Or so it appeared from the testimony delivered to the Philadelphia Historical Commission in September, when it opted to punt on the issue of preserving the endangered buildings. The Jewelers Row merchants who appeared at this month’s Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee meeting sang a different tune altogether.) Toll can build this project by right under the lot’s zoning, but Toll has indicated it wants to work with the community to shape a project everyone could live with. Right now, it looks like that project has yet to emerge. Read more »

Homes for Sale Coming to King of Prussia

So they're wood, stucco and brick rather than brown stone, but the Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge will let homeowners stake a claim on the new, more walkable King of Prussia. | Rendering courtesy Toll Brothers

Even though they’re made of tan siding, brown brick and cream rather than brown stone, the Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge will let homeowners in on the action in the new, more walkable King of Prussia. | Rendering courtesy Toll Brothers

It’s the dream of more than a few urbanites I know to live right next door to a Wegmans. Even better: owning their own place next door to one. Starting early next year, these people will be able to get their heart’s desire courtesy Toll Brothers City Living, which broke ground this month on the first buildings of a 132-unit condominium development.

All they’ll have to do is move to King of Prussia.

The Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge, as Toll is calling it, is the first for-sale residential development in King of Prussia in many years and the only one that will be in the middle of what’s shaping up to be its first truly walkable mixed-use community. That’s right: living next door to a Wegmans here means you step out your door and walk over to the store, no driving involved.

And if you happen to be employed at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s new clinic in K of P, you’ll have it made in the shade, for it’s a very short walk in the opposite direction.

Plus, said Toll Brothers City Living Division President Brian Emmons, “all the cool shops are just a few minutes away.”

The Brownstones will be similar in plan to the 2400 South condominium Toll built in Graduate Hospital’s western reaches two years ago: each four-story building will contain two three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath condominium units. The lower units will offer optional basements, while the upper ones introduce something new to King of Prussia: optional roof decks. All of the units will have outdoor living space in the form of rear balconies.

Work on the first six units, including the two sales models, is now under way; Emmons said Toll Brothers expects to complete these units by October, when the development will go on the market. Work on the next 18 units should begin by then and be complete by early 2017, with more units coming on line as the project progresses.

The Brownstones is one more piece in the larger plan spearheaded by the King of Prussia District to introduce more walkable urban environments into the mix of uses in the Philadelphia region’s largest edge city.

Toll Drops Plans for Society Hill Playhouse Site

The apartment buildings Toll Brothers said would replace the condos it had planned to build on 8th Street above South won't happen either. | Rendering: JKRP Architects via Toll Brothers

The apartment buildings Toll Brothers said would replace the condos it had planned to build on 8th Street above South won’t happen either. | Rendering: JKRP Architects via Toll Brothers

First, it was condominiums. Then, rental apartments. Now, nothing.

Toll Brothers has dropped plans to build apartment buildings on two plots of land it owns in Washington Square West. The lots, which face each other across 8th Street, currently house the former Society Hill Playhouse and a parking garage.

After testy negotiations with near neighbors caused Toll Brothers to drop its original plans to build condominiums on the two parcels, the company announced that it would build two apartment buildings by right instead. Now those plans have been scuttled.

Toll Brothers City Living Division Vice President Brian Emmons declined further comment when we asked for details about the decision or any possible plans for the sites.

Toll Brothers Announce New, $400M Investment Venture

preview-Toll_Brothers-400x400Toll Brothers has announced a new capital and asset management venture, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal and a release from the company. The venture is in partnership with a “large institutional investor” who is yet unnamed, and its goal is “to provide builders and developers with land banking and joint venture capital.”

The venture will be managed by Gibraltar, the Horsham-based Toll Brothers’ subsidiary for capital and asset management. It will have $400 million of funding, with 75% coming from the mystery investor and the other 25% from Toll Brothers. The venture will focus on providing third party builders and developers with the necessary funds.  Read more »

What’s Going on at the Other Gigantic Lot at Broad and Washington?

Northwest corner of Broad and Washington, December 2014 | Photo: James Jennings

Northwest corner of Broad and Washington, December 2014 | Photo: James Jennings

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: there is a proposal to develop an enormous lot on the corner of Broad and Washington into a mixed-use apartment and retail complex. The next logical question is: oh yeah, which one?

By now, you know all about Bart Blatstein’s plans to turn the northeast corner into a retail/residential project (with possibly two apartment towers), but Naked Philly spotted an interesting listing on LoopNet that sheds some light on the lot on the northwest corner.

Read more »

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