Saffron: West Philly Boom Is Nice, But Getting There May Be 100 Percent of the Battle

The Inquirer’s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, has occasionally been accused of being too negative — a charge leveled at most good critics at one time or another. In her latest Changing Skyline column, Saffron praises the West Philadelphia building boom in her own subdued way: “It’s nice to see the city’s skyline stretching west.”

You can hear the hesitation shimmer around that period, though, and indeed, Saffron does have a concern: that the Cira Centre South site, where the FMC Tower (rendering pictured) and the Evo building will be, is isolated from the Schuylkill waterfront “by a large, triangular moat, which looks down on the train tracks that feed into 30th Street Station and is one of several barriers that make walking there an unpleasant, and often hair-raising, experience.”

But Saffron can’t be said to be passively griping — she has a suggestion, one that has supporters, if not a clear path to financing. The idea is to build a landscaped deck across the moat as part of Penn Park, transforming “Schuylkill Avenue from a dismal highway to a riverfront promenade.” The deck would have the benefit of obscuring a parking garage between FMC and Evo, and maybe facilitate more of a connection to the street-level retail in both buildings.

Drexel is looking into this deck thing, because Drexel looks into everything these days, even if it doesn’t technically apply to them:

Drexel will commission a feasibility study to explore how the decks over the tracks could be constructed and financed. Even though the block with FMC and Evo is not Drexel territory, it will be included in the study, university president John Fry promises.

Brandywine and PennDOT are also looking into it. Now is the time, says a sanguine Saffron. Because there is a solution.

Changing Skyline: For a West Schuylkill site, time to bridge its moat [Inquirer]