Student Housing at 40th and Pines Gets Approval

On Wednesday afternoon, the Zoning Board of Adjustments approved by vote of 4-1, a handful of variences for developer Jonathan Weiss's proposed 122-unit apartment building at the corner of 40th and Pine streets.  the developer sought variances for number of units( 2 units permitted, 122 proposed), number of parking spots (122 spaces required, o proposed), and maximum height (38 feet permitted, 58.5 feet proposed).  The proposed replacement to the historic building that currently rests at the site, and owned by the University of Pennsylvania would be marketed to graduate students.

Phase II Penn Connects Expansion

Paseo Verde; Transit Oriented Affordable Housing

The Associación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) has partnered with the Jonathan Rose Companies, of New York, and Wallce, Roberts and Todd to develop Paseo Verde.  Meaning "green way" in Spanish, Paseo Verde is to be major new mixed-use development at 9th and Berks, in Lower North Philadelphia with slated completion for summer 2013.  The 1.9-acre brownfield site will be replaced with a 120 Transit Village Residences for low and moderate income families, 67 market-rate and 53 affordable housing one, two and three-bedroom apartments.  The mix use will also include about 30k sqft of commercial space, which includes a health center operated by Public Health Management Corporation and new headquarters for (APM). The remainder of the commercial space will be used as a community center for residents to congregate, host meetings, and access technological resources.

The Jonathan Rose Company, principal in Paseo Verde, was also principal in the Bronx's Via Verde which opened last year in September 2011. Via Verde has set a new standard for green, high-density, urban affordable housing. Unlike Via Verde, Paseo Verde is transit-oriented, position directly adjacent to the Temple regional rail train station.  The future project will link residents, workers and students to one of the busiest transit stations outside of Center City, and represent the culmination of a decade-long planning effort by APM to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood and successfully reintegrate the local community into both the neighboring Temple University campus, and the broader urban fabric beyond.  The project is designed to attain the highest levels of LEED for Homes and LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.

Diamond Green Apartments

Extremely generic in design but a positive alternative to a very large vacant lot on the edge of Temple University's campus in North Philadelphia, The completed Diamond Green Apartments adds 92 additional residential units for Temple students.  The building contains 12K sqft of first floor retail space with 92 2-bedroom and 4-bedroom apartments on the upper four floors.  Other amenities include round the clock security, laundry facilities, balconies, lounges and parking.  Rental rates start at $650 per furnished bedroom.

New $100 million Temple Student Housing

Philly.com reports, the Goldenberg Group has started construction on a $100 million student apartment building next to Temple University on the site of the former John Wanamaker Middle School with a 2014 completion date. The original plan was to renovate the school into student apartments, with community space and a charter school for the Bright Hope Baptist Church, currently located across the street.  The Bright Hope Baptist Church still remains part of the project as an equity partner with a 10% stake, money they say they will use to fund a new charter school.

The new 14-story residence will be located in the 100 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, adding 832 beds for Temple Students.  The project is the third to add much-needed housing for Temple.  The university is building a 1,000-bed dormitory on North Broad Street and Mosaic Development partners of West Philadelphia is finishing construction of Diamond Green Apartments for an additional 350 students near the Temple University train station.  The projects will  relieve pressure among Temple's rising ranks of students to find housing on or near campus, said Ken Lawrence, a senior vice president of government relations at Temple.  This will surely help to alleviate clashes between local residents and the over 5,000 Temple students living in off campus housing.


Soak It Up!

The Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Community Design Collaborative invite architects, landscape architects , engineers, and other professionals to enter an interdisciplinary design competition promoting innovative green storm water infrastructure for Philadelphia and other cities.  Soak It Up, sponsored by Infill Philadelphia, is the name of the competition who's mission is to revitalize urban neighborhoods through green storm water infrastructure.

Selected sites are a Industrial: Warehouse Watershed in Hartranft, North Philadelphia; Commercial: Retail Retrofit in Grays Ferry, South Philadelphia; Neighborhood: Greening the Grid in Queen Village, South Philadelphia.  Nine finalist will be selected to present at an awards event in Philadelphia on March 7, 2013 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.  One winning design will be selected for each of the three sites by jury.  Each winning team will receive a cash prize of $10,000.


Shareway 2030; Audi Urban Future Award Winner

Imagine a stream-lined transportation network throughout the North East linking major cities from Washington D.C. to Boston, a network where transportation, commerce and trade, communication, and inhabitation all flow through a continuous circuit.  This is exactly the sort of thing designers around the globe have been planning for years now.  Our cities are expanding at astronomical rates, along with evolutions in technology, demands on resources, and the speed of communication and accessibility. Urban expansion is not only happening in countries like China and India where you see new cities popping up every day.  It is happening right here in the Northeastern United States.

Cities and towns along the I-95 Corridor from Boston to Washington D.C. are growing to the point where they are beginning to overlap, sharing the burdens of a taxing developmental footprint and the demand on resources created by populations that inhabit them.  Boston-based Howler + Yoon Architecture has created an ambitious scheme: "a re-imagination of the highway as the 'Shareway' that unifies the I-95 corridor between Boston and Washington D.C. into a megaregion called 'Boswash'.

The central idea is for all modes of transport-commuter and freight trains, cars, bikes, and pedestrians- to "co-exist on a multi-level track designed to prevent traffic jams," writes Josh Rubin at Cool Hunting. To support the Shareway, the firm wants to create a "Superhub" in Newark that would contain an airport, seaport, rail station, and interstate intersection, along with parking and storage.  The firm's wide-ranging scheme also includes house-sharing programs and a proposal to convert vacant Baltimore land into agricultural fields.


Blemenfeld's High School Campus

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.

Philadelphia Mormon Temple Receives Final Approval

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, new Philadelphia Temple to be built on the 1700 block of Vine Street received final approval Wednesday, from the Art Commission.  The applicants addressed questions from their previous appearance before the Commission regarding the need for more information on the site's stormwater management, greater details on a lighting scheme, specific articulation of materials used on the facade, and landscaping. there is no new date set on completion of the project, but taking a note from their former 2014 completion date, I would expect sometime in Spring of 2015.