Here are a few preliminary master plan drawings by EB Realty showing Eric Blumenfeld's ambitios plan to convert his vacant parcels next to the Divine Lorrain into an educational campus that would combine four nearby high schools into one green campus. Combining the schools would in theory save millions in maintenance fees and operational capacity. It would also create new vocational focus on hospitality, culinary arts and technology, with partnerships with restauranteurs Starr and Vetri. in exchange for developing this new educational campus, Blumenfeld would purchase the former high school buildings and turn them into housing. The campus would host 4 high schools, shared library and technology center, Starr School of Hospitality, Vetri School of Culinary Art with teaching kitchen, shared athletic center, shared Visual Arts Complex, Shared Performing Arts Center with Koresh Dance Company, Daycare Center, 76ERS training facility and parking, and new Septa Station entrances.
This project, if materialized would indeed misplace a few residence, (granted they should be bought out at fair market rates if needed or given first priority to affordable housing in nearby neighborhood developments), but would be an anchor institution this section of Broad St. needs. The neighborhood needs an institution the community can expand on, one that is key to empowering future Philadelphian's, unlike Blatstein's Casino proposal down the road.
I don't fully disagree with Blatstein's proposal, I think it needs to be planned a lot better and the way it connects and benefits the immediate surrounding communities needs to be considered. Tax generation for the city and state is one thing but being a positive contribution to the community on a more direct level is more important. A casino in Center City is the best option compared to remote Delaware Ave. or the Sports Complex, but at street level it should not feel like another convention center or mega AC Casino structure with very few windows to the street. The rooftop village is unique, but is it the best solution? A ground floor mall with restaurants, jazz and comedy club opening to the street with a concealed interior casino with no main entrance to the street would be more appropriate. And for the rooftop village, a more tasteful elaboration of the Towers beautiful architecture, growing at an undulating height of 3 to 5 stories in certain areas along the roof line with spas, pools, gardens, and private villas would look a lot better from the street. I am all for big development in Philadelphia, but like we say in design, there is always room for improvement.