Delaware Riverfront Trail Updates

Owners of property along the Central Delaware waterfront would be encouraged, but not forced, to allow public access to the river if current language under consideration for a zoning overlay is adopted by city council.  The goal is to design the overlay so that, along with base zoning, it guides future development according to the principles of the Central Delaware Master Plan.  Key Master plan goals include: Mixed-use, mostly neighborhood-scale development with active ground-floor uses; public access to the waterfront and the creation of a multi-purpose trail, and extension of the street grid to the river.

The plan requires that developers and owners leave 50 feet between the river and any permanent structure.  Stream buffer legislation that would set a setback requirement on all rivers and streams is working its way through council.  if the final legislation doesn't change from current discussions, landowners could chose from a menu of ways to allow public access, including granting access while retaining control of the section of their property where the trail passes or selling that section of property to the city.

Current language now calls for a 100-foot cap on building height except where underlying zoning sets the height lower. The Philadelphia City planning Commission can grant exceptions allowing for additional height.  However, a bonus structure may be implemented , similarly to other parts of the zoning code, would include a chart establishing clear conditions that can be met to earn specific bonuses.  Give-back options could earn a developer more height.  This would allow the city to build the trail through a property would yield some increase.  Developers who paid for the construction of that trail or built it themselves according to the trail standards would get even more height.  The developers will know exactly what the bonus will be for granting height depending on how much open space his or her project has, affordable housing, apartment rentals, LEED certification, and infrastructure for transportation or art.

On another note, renderings for the Penn Street portion of the Central Delaware Waterfront were revealed DRWC planners at last Fridays meeting.  This section of the trail will connect a greenway on Spring Garden Street to the Central Delaware trail.  it will run north from Spring Garden on Delaware Avenue, turn onto Penn Street and into the SugarHouse Casino parking lot.  The Casino has agreed to to build the section of the trail through its parking lot, which will hook onto the existing trail the casino has built on the waterfront.

Key design elements include trail-side rain gardens, and a new kind of solar street lights where the wrapping of the pole is the solar collector.  The planning commission has approved materials for the trail, but must vote on other aspects, including curb relocations and traffic flow on Penn Street which is expected to take place in November.


Favela Painters Decorate Philadelphia

Haas & Hahn, two mural artists famous for painting the Favela's of Brazil, make their mark in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood. The artists joined forces with the city's Mural Arts Program with whom they will spend a year with transforming one of Philadelphia's oldest commercial corridors, currently in a state of neglect, into a vibrant display of color and geometry, bringing a colorful shot of inspiration to this part of the city.

The artists took up residence in North Philadelphia where they have started work on four city blocks of community collaborative designs.  The beautiful transformation can be seen as you round the bend of Germantown Avenue after W Cumberland Street approaching Lehigh Avenue. The grander scope of the project will stretch from the 2500 block to the 2800 block of Germantown Ave.   Many residents along with the Philadelphia Commerce Department recognize the potential of a major project like this to spread and nourish optimism and serve as a catalyst for additional positive change and commercial potential.  The painters involved are a crew of 7 including 2 team leaders Felix St. Fort and Jared Wood who are trained and paid through the Mural Arts Program, working full time.  An additional crew of youths are paid by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS).  In addition, a group of eight participants from Restorative Justice paint one day a week.

The design process requires each store-owner to sign off on a color scheme drawn from 35 color pallets and patterns extensively researched and photographed, locally, by the artists.   The artists captured important images of the neighborhood and ultimately developed a color pallet based on patterns of recurring primary and secondary hues that reflect the neighborhood and the city's quintessentially rich and complex character.  Local residents and business owners are genuinely pleased with the project, often times praising the artist and painters for their hard work and for choosing their community to perform an art installation of this magnitude.  Metropolis MAG hales this project as a bold social intervention, introducing an element of uniformity that will knit the commercial corridor into a harmonious, marketable entity.

This remarkable effort required the collaboration of the Mural Arts with a range of funding and civic partners.  A larger economic development strategy, spearheaded by Darrell Clarke, has also engaged the city's Department of Commerce and the Planning Commission.  Other crucial partnerships involved the Village of Arts and Humanities who is hosting the artist's residency, Diane Bridges of NET CDC, and others who are critical to building trust within the community.


A Touch of Provence France on North Broad

Bart Blatstein could have chosen a number of historic destinations to model his proposed entertainment complex after from Spain, Morocco, Greece or France.  Although the Tower building draws influences from the Spanish Gibraltar bell tower, Blatstein sought inspiration from the French region of Provence, in south eastern France, a place full of Greek and Italian influences.

The former Inguirer/Daily News building and adjacent lands will be transformed into a $700 million palatial resort and entertainment complex in the heart of Philadelphia.  Blatstein stressed that the project is much more than a casino, it is an entertainment complex, one such typology that is rare in Philadelphia.  The project would be adorned with a rooftop shopping street with French flourishes, a 125 room hotel, 3000 slot machines, 150 table games, two swim clubs, a jazz club, a comedy club, a theater, and a botanical garden.  The casino would be on the site of what is now a parking lot between 15th and 16th street on Callowhill.  A 125- room hotel will go inside the iconic office tower on Broad. The rendering even consider gardens surrounding the I-676 on ramps.

News Works reports Blatstein says, the plan would create thousands of jobs and generate $25 million in tax revenues once it is open.  He also ensure that the project, designed by Steelman Partners of Las Vegas, will be built all at once, with no plan B in sight.  It's all or nothing for the big developer who believes this is the biggest project he will ever do.  The casino portion will be operated by Hard Rock International.

All of this will only be possible if Tower Investments is awarded the second casino license by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board after the submission deadline of Nov. 15.  Until then, its still another "Big City Dream", at least one that is appropriate, arguably so.


Drexel University Construction update

The LeBow College of Business is moving along swiftly with a September 2013 completion date put forth.  Designed by Robert A.M. Stern in conjunction with Voith & Mactavish Architects, this $87.5 million, project will house all the LeBow College of Business programs, replacing the 1960s-era Matheson Hall building.  The 12-story business center at the heart of the Drexel University campus will unite the College's various constituencies around a five-story-high atrium ringed by classrooms, student lounges, events spaces, and offices.

The Chestnut Square Development, developed by American Campus Communities is also moving along well. It too has a September 2013 completion date and was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects in conjunction with Voith & Mactavish Architects.  The $97 million student housing community and mixed-use project consist of a 19- story residential tower at the corner of Chestnut and 32nd streets and two eight-story buildings fronting Chestnut Street.  The buildings together will add 865 student beds and 25,000 sg.ft. of new retail space on Chestnut Street.

New Pennsylvania Ballet Building Progresses On

PhillyShark brought to you a while ago the move of the Pennsylvania Ballet to 321 N. Broad Street.  The project continues to progress on with demolition complete and construction underway.

The $17.5 million project will feature five dance studios, offices, and facilities for a soon to return School of the Pennsylvania Ballet.

34th & Market Street Science Center Tower

A few moths ago press was released that the Science Center's expansion on 34th and Market received a needed boost and is only and anchor tenant away from construction.  the 17 Story 282 foot tower will take the place of a parking lot at 3400 Market St.

The architect for the project is Chris Stoddard of ZGF Architects, unfortunately their site does not have the project listed with any information on its design.  From information given by the architect a year ago  to the Philadelphia Planning Commission, we do know that the building will feature a 15-foot setback from the property line with the lobby and retail space fronting Market Street and retail along 34th Street.  The next three floors will extend out to the property line, forming a base for the tower with aluminum windows.  The tower will rise another 13 floors, topped off with a mechanical penthouse.

The lower floors would be occupied by a mix of office space and classrooms while the upper floors would feature labs and office space.  The project is still in conceptual stage so any changes are possible.

Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House May Belt Out Symphonic Melodies Once Again

Many Philadelphians are unaware that the city has ever been home to a Metropolitan Opera House.  We often walk or drive down Broad Street barely noticing the large chalky building that reminds you a bit of Old Havana.  Well that old building is actually the former home to the Metropolitan Opera House at 858 N. Broad St.

The Met was used as an opera venue until the 1920s, when it became a vaudeville theater, a movie house, a ballroom and later a venue for sports, including boxing, wrestling and basketball.

The building is currently occupied by the Rev. Mark Hatcher Jr. head of the Holy Ghost Church where they occupy the lower level of the building. North Philadelphia Developer  Eric Blumenfeld will partner with Rev. Hatcher to redevelop the 104 year old structure built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein.  Three  weeks ago, the two signed an agreement to work together on reviving the old opera house.  Hatcher said that at this stage, they are only exploring ideas.  Blumenfeld just recently purchased the beautiful Divine Lorain with plans to convert it to apartments with restaurants at the ground level.  He also plans to acquire four acres of vacant land behind the Divine Loraine, with hopes of developing it into a campus for four public high schools.  The philadelphia School District hasn't been sold on the idea as of yet.

After purchasing the project back in 1996 for $250,000 Hatcher had plans for redevelopment, but due to the need of state and federal funding the plans never surfaced, so he held on to the property, the best way he could patching up holes and cleaning up what he could with the help of his congregation.  Now with a forward thinking, money backed partner, hatcher may finally see his investment pay off.

These major plans for development along North Broad Street (Resurrection of the Divine Loraine, Metropolitan Opera House, Casino and Hotel at the Inquire Building, Convention Center, and Numerous other residential and growing restaurant scene) spell a revival in the mist, maybe not to its former glory but perhaps the new North Broad Street "Avenue of the Arts North" may turn out stronger and more vital than its predecessor.

Source: Philly.com


Navy Yard Builds First Hotel

Photos courtesy of Erdy McHenry Architecture

The Courtyard by Marriott will be the first hotel to be constructed in Philadelphia's progressively emerging new business district, the Navy Yard.  Construction began earlier this week on the $34 million project set to be completed in late 2013.

The 99,000 square-foot five story hotel will offer 172 guest rooms, a restaurant, lounge, fitness center, and 2,000 square feet of meeting space.  The new hotel will dock itself at Rouse Boulevard and Intrepid Avenue, sporting an energy efficient design seeking LEED certification.  The hotel design by Erdy McHenry Architecture is being developed by Ensemble Hotel Partners LLC and Liberty Property Trust/ Synterra LP.

The exterior of the building at the guest rooms will be clad in a Composite Metal Panel rain-screen system, giving the building an ever changing skin that depends upon the time of day and amount of sunlight.  The exterior rain-screen creates a system to reduce the building's overall heat gain by using a series of sub-girts and custom aluminum clips to prevent transfer of heat to the building sub-framing.  The base of the building is comprised of a mix of aluminum storefront and porcelain wall tile that also extends up the vertical circulation towers.

Blatstein Unveils Plans for Casino Complex on North Broad Street

Tonight Developer Bart Blatstein plans to unveil what many optimistic risky thinking pro-development enthusiast have been waiting for.  He will unveil plans for his proposed "world-class resort and casino complex" at the site of the former Daily News and Inquirer offices on North Broad Street.  Tower Investments will present the architectural renderings for the project tonight at Tendenza at the Piazza on 2nd Street in Northern Liberties.

Not everyone of course if celebrating.  Neighborhood associations in Callowhill and Chinatown are opposed to the casino due to concerns about the impact a casino will have on surrounding communities, whether it's traffic, parking, crime and safety, or consistent development for North Broad.  As we remember the days of Sugar House and Foxwoods Casinos and the attached opposition by many Philadelphia residents, you may wonder why Blatstein is so confident his vision will win over or soften the opinions of these passionate NIMBY's.

Many however believe like myself, that this project would be an appropriate addition to North Broad Street, given only that Blatstein is committed to fully following through with the entire expansion of the project.  I personally have a big problem with these large phased in projects like Sugar House that may potentially never see a hotel, retail, restaurants and concealed parking.  Blatstein has a unique location, much better than the Gallery Mall and Delaware Ave., supported by an avenue already boasting with development proposals and growth. North Broad street perhaps is being molded into Philadelphia's next entertainment district, opposite the theatre district with the convention center, a slew of hotel proposals, casino, emerging restaurant scene, numerous residential projects and maybe a retail sector, mending the gap between emerging neighborhoods like Fairmount, Spring Garden, Northern Liberties, Chinatown, Temple University and Lower North Philadelphia, and a sea of development potential in Callowhill.

PhillyShark will keep you updated on the release of the Development Plans.

Source: Philly.com