Proposed Office And Residences at 1900 Arch

Next door to the proposed site of the stalled American Commerce Center, Philadelphia developer Eric Blumenfeld wants to bring a three-building complex of 236 apartments, 10,000 square feet of office space and two restaurants to 19th and Arch Streets.  Blumenfeld told the Philadelphia City Planning Commision Tuesday that his design would be a great building for world-class restaurants.  Both restaurants would be about 800 square feet and would include three walls of windows that would provide connection to both the street and one of two courtyards.  Two levels of underground parking for 65 cars each would be accessible from Arch Street. Loading for residents and the businesses would be off Cuthbert Street, and the request of neighbors.

The complex, designed by architect Stephen Varenhorst comprises three buildings, one 6 stories tall, one 12 and one 14.  To build developer will need variances related to height, density and curb cuts.  The building site is within the Logan Square overlay which limits building heights to 125 feet. The complex is 162 feet at its highest point.  The proposed density seems to be the biggest hurdle for the developers.  The property is currently zoned for C-4, allowing for a floor-to-area ratio of 5, enough for a building 5 stories tall.  The proposed project is more dense than allowed with a ration of 7.7.

Blumenfeld said he hoped construction would start this spring.  Planning Commission Chairman Alan Greenberger suggested that if it turns out construction won't start until later, Blumenfeld might want to wait for the adoption of the new zoning code.  The new code contains density incentives that may make obtaining variances much easier.

SS United States Faces Deadlines While City May Gain Another Casino Opp.

The SS United States Conservancy is in the home stretch of securing title to the 990-foot-long ocean liner.  Six months ago the Conservancy signed a six-month exclusive purchase option with the ships current owners, Genting Hong King, a move which saved the ship from certain scrapping.  Thanks to H.F. 'Gerry" Lenfest, the Conservancy are beneficiaries of a $5.8 million pledge that will cover purchase costs for the ship.  The Conservancy is now raising funds to pay for upcoming title transfer costs, as well as seed money for the non-profit component portion of the ship, namely the museum, educational programs, and historic restoration of portions of the interiors to their original grandeur.

On November 21 the Conservancy and Stephen Varenhorst Architects unveiled a redevelopment study with the ships as the centerpiece of a mixed-used development at Reed and Tasker Streets, otherwise known as the "Foxwoods site" then under the control of Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners L.P.  The ship would be docked in a slip perpendicular to the river bank, with a large public plaza in front.  Surrounding the ship would be new buildings residential housing, retail, and casino.
In various scenarios, part of the gaming operations would be located on the ship's lower decks.  The upper decks, including the ballroom and the navigation bridge, would be restored to their original 1950s appearance and ambiance, and would boast spaces for meetings, dining, a museum, and a boutique hotel.


Drexel Gets New Business School

The Drexel University received $45 million in November from corporate executive and alumnus Bennett S. LeBow for a new academic Center for its business school, which already bears his name.  The new 12 story, limestone and glass building set to open in 2014 will consolidate Drexel's four business school buildings into one.  It will allow enrollment in the business school to grow by about 500 students, to 4,100. Located at 32nd and Market Streets, the building will be Drexel's most expensive to date.

Downtown West Philadelphia On The Rise!

Is West Philadelphia becoming to Center City as Brooklyn is to Manhattan?  Well lets take a look; it has a downtown "University City"; Industry- Medicine, Science, and Education; a growing population of students, yuppies, hipsters, and soulsters integrating into long time established African American communities; a historic identity as the streetcar suburb; culture and beautiful parks and museums; numerous direct public transit options to Center City; and most importantly neighborhoods with a lot of growing potential.  Although it does not quite rival North Philadelphia Neighborhoods with residential renovations and new construction, West Philly has been more of a renovation town and growing urban farming community.  Most renovations of historic Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, and Powelton Village were encourage by the University of Penn's goal to integrate faculty, students, and neighbors into a well diverse community.  Now Drexel University is planning similar initiatives for its neighborhoods north of Market Street.

Photo by Flickr user TS Drown

Newly appointed Drexel University president, John Fry along with a team of bold innovative thinkers are building what PhillyMag says could be the city of the future.  As Fry presented his major theory of growth early in October he asked, "If Anthony Drexel were to walk today from the Main Building, where the Drexel Institute was founded almost 120 years ago, through our campus and into these neighborhoods, would he be satisfied that we are fulfilling our obligation as an urban university?"  Frys answer was no.  Fry proposed a few ambitious but achievable goals like, Drexel University becoming the most civically engaged university in America, increasing policing and public-safety infrastructure spending, a generous neighborhood home- ownership loan program for employees, and a proposed university takeover to improve a nearby elementary school.

The short-term goal is to make the northern University City neighborhoods around Drexel more like the clean, tree lined, charming, and prosperous precincts that adjoin the Penn campus.  Fry spoke on a stretch of desolate rail yards lining the west bank of the Schuylkill, sprawling northward from 30th Street Station, of which he has great visions for.  The sparse use of the tracks have created possibilities of air rights and plat-forming.  Looking at the amazing views of Center City and the Art Museum he imagines a campus expansion to the west banks of the Schuylkill via the rail yard.  But the real big idea that Fry and some others are developing is to create a University City that rivals Center City, where jobs are created by two major universities, a large teaching hospital and medical research center, a world-renowned children's hospital, and the nation's oldest urban scientific- research park.  All of this will finally occupy a neighborhood with a stable and attractive housing market, a vibrant street scene, a growing restaurant culture, upscale retailers, the arts, and the kinds of schools families can feel comfortable sending their children to.