CDR Panel Gives Toll Jewelers Row Tower a Mixed Review

One panelist had questions about how the building came to double in height, but they all agreed it needs to make up its mind what it wants to be. (Even the member who liked it said it should be more modern.)

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.

Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Paul Steinke asked Toll Brothers lawyer Ron Patterson whether the project received a transfer of air rights in order to build to its current 29-story, 354-foot height, which is almost double what Toll had originally proposed for the site. Patterson responded that Toll was proceeding “under the guidance that [the building as designed] is appropriate” for its site.

Patterson argued that the neighboring air rights, which are needed because the lot’s 9,000-square-foot size isn’t large enough to allow a tower this big to be built, can be transferred to Toll’s site under a doctrine known as “unity of use.” Licenses & Inspections spokeswoman Karen Guss said, “We’ve n0t yet accepted their arguments that this meets unity of use requirements, and we’ve requested additional information” from the developer.

Panel member Don Garofalo also encouraged Toll Brothers to incorporate some of the features contained on the new CDR Sustainability Checklist into the project and maybe even seek LEED certification.

Because no permits save demolition permits have yet been issued for this site, this CDR presentation technically fell outside the formal process; however, Toll Brothers could use it much as it has used feedback it has gotten from other stakeholder meetings to further tweak or refine the project. The Historical Commission is set to reconsider the nominations for 704, 706 and 708 Sansom Street this Friday, February 10th, but its decision will have no impact on the validity of the demolition permits, which were issued before the applications were submitted.

Assuming L&I agrees with Toll’s interpretation of the zoning rules, Toll would then be free to proceed with obtaining permits, at which time the formal CDR process would begin. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that what Toll presents at a second CDR hearing — and given the panel’s concerns, it’s likely to request one — might be as different from this tower as the 29-story tower it submitted to CDR was from the 16-story one it had originally announced.

Curbed Philly’s report, linked below, also contains a handy timeline of the project’s history to date.

Jewelers Row tower gets mixed reviews at Civic Design Review panel [Curbed Philly]

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Updated Feb. 9, 1:04 p.m., to correct information about the demolition permits and the need for transfer of air rights based on the lot’s zoning.