Cira Centre South

Cira Centre South has been in the works for almost 5 years now and finally it seams as though phase two of the project may actually happen.  Penn Connects offerers some nice updated renderings of the planned mixed use development that will soon be the neighbor of the IRS at the former Post Office and Penn Park.

The Post Office Annex development, as presented in a preliminary design by Brandywine Realty Trust, proposes two mixed-use towers fronting on Walnut and Chestnut Streets, and a 1667-car parking garage with street level retail in the middle of the block.  The now complete Parking garage will soon host its first tenants, Old Nelson Food Market and the Schulykill River Development Corporation.

The Walnut Street Tower will offer 500,000 sf of office space, with Penn leasing 115,000 sf; 12,000 sf of retail and restaurant space; 200,000 sf for a 225 room Hotel; and a 125,000 sf, 50 unit condominiums.  The Chestnut Street tower will provide 300,000 sf of apartments and 7,000 sf of possible retail along Chestnut Street.

Total project Cost: $520,000,000
Area: 1,888,000 GSF
Developer: Brandywine Realty Trust
Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Penn Park is Open for Business

What was once a desolate concrete wasteland along the lower west Schuylkill banks is now a lush oasis of cypress and sycamores, laced in winding paths and decked out with playing fields and meadows.  Penn Park is certainly a design that gets better with age, but the new make over is exceeds expectations from what it formally was.  i would say many are actually surprised it was completed is such a short time, or even went into construction phase, given the trends in large scale developments in Philadelphia, private or public.

The new urban park sits east of the Highline and stretches from Walnut Street to South Street, featuring a fabric of tightly interwoven recreation and athletic components.  Formal and informal play fields are framed and subdivided by patches of canopy trees extending the familiar landscape of the campus.

Penn Park combines elements of sports activity with the opportunity for relaxation and informal play.  Athletic venues include sprint turf fields, a softball stadium, tennis center, and enclosed season air structure.

Total Project cost: $46,500,000
Area: 24 Acres
Completion: September 2011
Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates


Lenfest Plaza Set for Weekend Debut

This once drab and dark alley way will soon be draped with lights, motion and love!  Armed with a permanent, sure to be iconic sculpture, and a temporary sculpture design, the plaza's unveiling will be an impressive addition to Broad street.

Designing this significant public urban space meant "dealing with the negotiation between public and private infrastructure, usually structurally sound materials, and working within a tight schedule and through multiple agencies– the Streets Department, SEPTA, telecom, water and sewer," says David Rubin, and OLIN partner and lead designer on the project.

The goals for the plaza include better linking the two Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts buildings, as well as creating linkages to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the west and the Pennsylvania Convention Center to the east, across Broad Street.

The first temporary sculpture titled "Grumman Greenhouse,"by local sculptor Jordan Griska is crafted from a decommissioned Cold War-era U.S. warfare aircraft, made of armored aluminum.  Griska has folded the metal of the nose and body so that the plane appears to have nose-dived into the plaza.

The plaza itself, ambient lighting will be in place via projectors placed on top of Hamilton, and lamps along the ground that will give off patterns of dappled light.  The designers have also placed lighting under OLIN's honey-colored sinuous bench.  In the mean time no greenery is planned for the space.

Project Manager: Becker & Frondorf
Landscape Architects: OLIN Partners
Lighting: The Lighting Practice


SEPTA Installs Elevators at City Hall Station

Septa will finally begin renovations to its City Hall station and Dilworth Plaza.  City Hall is the only station on the Market-Frankford Line to not offer access for the disabled, and the Broad Street line is well behind in that regard.  Septa riders will finally be getting these elevators thanks to a consent decree that ends a contentious lawsuit filed against SEPTA eight years ago.

The two elevators, which will lead from the Dilworth Plaza concourse to the east and west El platforms, will be installed as part of Center City's redesign of the City Hall courtyard.  SEPTA and Center City will also install two elevators from the courtyard to the concourse as part of the project, as well as elevators down to the 15th Street trolley platforms.  By the time Dilworth is remade, only the Broad Street Line portion of the station will lack elevators.

The elevators are scheduled for completion by the end of 2013, according to the concent decree, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter last week.  SEPTA will pay between $7 million and $10 million to install elevators from the street down to the concourse, which is part of a $100 million plan to reconstruct City Hall station.  The Center City project will cost $50 million and has received federal stimulus funding.  It will replace the current concrete plaza with a grassy area, improved amenities and a cafe.


Iroko Pharmaceuticals Expands in Navy Yard

Iroko Pharmaceutical leases space in a new building to be constructed by Liberty Property Trust at the Navy Yard Corporate Center.  The new 56,000 square foot headquarters will allow Iroko to increase the size of its work force from about 50 people to more than 200.  The company currently occupies about 19,000 square feet of office space in the Navy Yard.

Liberty Property Trust and Synterra Partners, both of Philadelphia, will break ground on the new four-story headquarters building.  Liberty is investing $15.4 million in the project, which is expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of next year.  It will represent the seventh commercial property Liberty has developed at the Navy Yard Corporate Center with Synterra.

Chinatown Eastern Tower Community Center

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation plans to build a 23-story, 265-foot-high residential and office tower, with a community center on the ground floor, on two parcels at the northwest corner of Vine and 10th streets.  The communities strong desire for a community center prompted the project, but constructing a stand-alone center proved prohibitive, therefore the PCDC joined with private developer Teres Holdings to iron out a more solid economic plan.

Plans call for 12,000 square feet of retail space, 15,000 square feet of office space, 144 mostly rental apartments and a 23-car garage.  A small charter school is a possible office tenant, and the buildings 2-story community center would include 500-person multi-function room where basketball can be played and a health center.  floors 6 to 23 would be residential, with a mix of one and two bedroom units.  The tower would be topped with a green roof, residences would have operable windows, and silver LEED certification would be sought.

"The goal is to carry Chinatown across to the other side of Vine Street," said Jung, which is why the development is tall and dense.  Chinatown has grown rapidly, Chi said, and has many residents who live below the poverty line.  There is a dearth of affordable housing, and this development would contain some.  And there is also a need for better access to health care and education.  The tower would be a "physical solution, economic solution, and social solution to the barriers and issues we find in the Chinatown community," Chin said.

Planning Commission Round-Up

Recap of topics covered at Tuesdays Planning Commission Meeting upstairs at 1515 Arch Street.
The Agenda:

- SugarHouse Casino expansion, (covered in yesterdays post), executing a first of several expansion projects.  This first phase will increase the size of the casino and construct a new parking garage.

-Chinatown Tower, a "mixed-use," 11-story, boldly-colored building, with retail stores, rental hall, nonprofit offices and up to 8 stories of apartments.  Presented by John Chin, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, for the vacant northwest corner of 11th and Vive, formerly owned by PennDOT and the Redevelopment Authority.

- Umbria Village, by JERC Partners, 168 apartments in 16 four-story buildings, 199 parking spaces, 35 bike spaces, a 2-story clubhouse-pool house, at 1 Parker Avenue in Roxborough, adjacent to the Ivy Ridge Station above the old Manayunk.  This is a smaller version of a previously approved plan.

- Navy Yard, near Tastykake Baker Factory, Liberty Property Trust is dividing a 12-acre site into separate 4 and 8 acre sites for future commercial buildings.

- Closing the end of Unruth Ave. for the North Delaware Trail and Greenway Project in Wissinoming; and separately closing Ashland St. along Frankford Creek, which could affect a second nearby trail.


SugarHouse Expansion

Sugarhouse Casino representatives hope to build a parking garage 40 feet shorter than what was originally approved for their next phase of development, while also retaining the option to build outward instead of upward if there is the need for more parking in the future.

Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger told the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that the administration thinks the longer retention of more surface lot space is a good trade  for reducing the garage from 10 to 6 stories above an expanded ground floor casino space.

The plans the commission has already approved called for all but 10 percent of the 100,000-square-foot parking lot to disappear when the garage is built.  The current plans also require SugarHouse to build the 3,200 space garage in one phase.  Under this proposal it could be build in several phases, said project architect Cope.  SugarHouse wants to begin with 1,500 spaces.

In addition to the planning commission's approval for this amended plan, SugarHouse would also need the support of City Council, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Army Corp of Engineers.  Te garage, which would include additional slots and table games on the ground floor, would be built on 19 acres north of the current site at 1707-1719 N. Delaware Avenue.  SugarHouse has recently acquired that property.  But casinos can only operate in Philadelphia on property zoned Commercial Entertainment District, therefore City Council would need to enlarge the SugarHouse CED to include this land.
Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

There were also discussions of future phases, including a hotel tower adjacent to the port-cochere and ground-floor retail and presumably residential development along Delaware Avenue.  That development would be slated for the future, dependent on market conditions.  The hotel would be less than 300 feet tall, respecting the current height limit, with a green roof.  The expansion would ad about 600 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs.


Mormon Church Groundbreaking

Saturday the Church of Latter-day Saints held a successful ground-breaking ceremony for its Vine Street Temple.  Construction is expected to be completed some time in 2014, says Corinne Dougherty, director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Philadelphia region.

There are both churches and temples in the Latter-day Saints faith, which is also known as the Mormon faith.  temples are more sacred, and there are only about 130 of them in the nation.  The Philadelphia Temple District, which includes Pennsylvania From Williamsport to Harrisburg Philadelphia and its suburbs, Delaware, Southern New Jersey, and part of Maryland, has about 32,000 members.  While Pennsylvania has been the site of much church history, the Philadelphia temple will be the first in the state. The two closest are currently in New York and Washington.

The Temple will be just under 70,000 square feet.  Its spires will reach no higher than 209 feet – a height which required a change in zoning.  Architect Perkins + Will, which has offices in Philadelphia and New York, created the design, which the church has kept under wraps.  Last spring, the church acquired a 90,000-square-foot parcel at 16th and Vive, across the street from the temple property at 17th and Vine.  It plans to build a mixed-use commercial development on what is now an open-air parking lot.


The New Zoning Draft Affects Commercial Properties Along Ridge Avenue

The new zoning overlays for Northwest Philadelphia go as far as governing what kind of sign you can hang above your Manayunk boutique, what your corner store can sell in Germantown, how wide your Chestnut Hill storefront can be, and where to put the trash bins for your restaurant in East Falls.  This is almost unheard of in the city, but very common in our neighboring suburbs.  I think its well overdue to crack down on tacky commercial storefront owners, and the communities are better off.

Traditionally, overlays have allow individual neighborhoods to limit or encourage specific kinds of commercial development and create a desired aesthetic.  They dictate how tall structures can be and how they should look, and guide the interaction between public and private spaces.  In many cases, they also include lengthy and specific lists of prohibited business uses.

In the proposed city zoning code, the Northwest overlays are absorbed into a new category called Neighborhood Commercial Area, or NCA, "intended to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood commercial areas and to promote and help guide appropriate commercial development." In general, the NCAs deal more broadly with the form and design of the built environment, rather than enumerating specific uses.  In many– but not all– cases, those individual prohibited uses will be left to the control of the new commercial zoning that will replace current designations.


New Pedestrian Plaza at 30th Street Station

The 40 foot wide stretch of sidewalk on the south side of 30th Street Station, built by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will be turned into a tree lined pedestrian plaza, to serve commuters and employees of the IRS and Amtrak.  PennDOT is in the middle of a multi-million-dollar project to renovate elevated road structures near the train lines along the western bank of the Schuylkill River.  As part of that project, Amtrak agreed to allow the agency to take away a lane of looped parking to expand the existing sidewalk on the 2900 block of Market Street.

Prema Gupta, UCD's director of planing and economic development, said the group would use the extra land to "humanize the space" by adding in planters, tables and chairs.  The group also wants to add programming for the area, something along the lines of a farmer's market or a partnership with a fitness center to provide outdoor yoga classes.

The move is part of a larger city-wide initiative to improve pedestrian amenities on the cheap, such as the recently installed parklet installed by UCD near Clark Park and a new city program that aims to turn unused slivers of roadbed into small pedestrian plazas.  Costs are being covered by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

the UCD project is one of several planned in the area, along with Penn Park, the University of Pennsylvania's redevelopment of acres of vacant parking lots into playing fields.  Additionally, the Water Department is planning to turn the 3000 block of John F. Kennedy Boulevard into a green street demonstration project highlighting storm-water management features.  The city also has federal stimulus grant to make the Walnut Street Bridge more pedestrian friendly, and the Schuylkill River Development Corp. wants to add more green space along Schuylkill Avenue.