Renaissance Plaza; Delaware Waterfront

The old World Trade Square Proposal site may finally see life in what seems to be the start of a new era in the development of Philadelphia's Delaware Waterfront.  Since the adoption of the Delaware master plan overlay, and just recently the installment of the new city wide zoning code, we have seen an increase in proposed development projects along the river, many are revised versions of projects we've seen in the early years of the last decade.

Todays featured project is located at 400 N. Columbus blvd.  Developer Waterfront Renaissance Associates plans to build a 1,458-unit, four-tower residential and retail complex at the corner of Columbus Boulevard and Spring Garden Street, at the same location WRA had planned to construct World Trade Square.

Old World Trade Square

The tallest two of the four towers of Renaissance Plaza would rise 426 feet, the other two 227 feet.  The shorter towers would be more than double the 100-foot height limit established in the Central delaware Waterfront Master Plan.  This has raised red flags for a few concerned board members of DRWC.  The shorter towers would be more than double the 100-foot height limit established in the  Master Plan.  However, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, which must approve plans of development for projects within the Central Delaware, has the power to grant exceptions to the height limits.

The proposal for the 5.29 acres site includes more than 90,000 square feet of retail space.  The developments also plans for public open space and green areas that all Philadelphians- complex residents or not- can use.  The project would be built to the highest LEED standard attainable, and include a green roof with swimming pools.

"The owner and architect (Bill Alesker of Alesker & Dundon) sought a design they say will be a signature project for the waterfront.  They feel the project will be a catalyst for future development along Columbus Boulevard and help connect the adjacent neighborhood with the waterfront.  Indeed no final decisions have been made, and I personally hope the planning commission sends the designers back to the drawing board to rethinking the design and building material selection.  The current renderings look very dated and lack vision.  I see it as an insult to the incredible potential this waterfront has at its infant stage.  The bar should not only be set high with building standards but also in aesthetics, because aesthetics is the mental imprint visitors and residents will leave with. Beautiful design is what gets the buzz going, not LEED standards, although important, but not good enough.

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