Jan. 19, 2010
By Thomas J. Walsh
Two projects involving condominiums in Society Hill and apartments in Northern Liberties are moving forward. Both developments received different stages of approval at Tuesday’s scheduled monthly meeting of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
The long-awaited and at-times controversial Stamper Square condo and hotel scheme from developer Marc Stein got an OK for an official plan of development for a 15-story tower on the vacant site of the failed NewMarket retail spot (and, later, the Will Smith “W” hotel that never was). If successful, the building, at Headhouse Square, 410 S. Front Street, could serve as a high-end anchor – or at least a high-profile link – between the declining eastern end of the South Street district and Society Hill. The 150-room luxury Starwood hotel would have accompanying retail spaces and a restaurant. There would be 77 condos and underground parking for 350 cars.
Commissioner Patrick Eiding seemed to grow impatient with what he perceived as objections repeated many times over the last two years. “These kinds of thing are due to the times,” Eiding said, regarding a lack of financing to launch construction of Stamper Square. He cited the second Cira Center tower near 30th Street Station, saying that even that development, which is “one of the best projects this board could look at, [is] not being financed” either.
“The more that we hold up development for frivolous reasons – if the thing has been fully vetted by the Planning Commission people and also by this board – then I think somebody ought to come up to this microphone with something new,” Eiding said.
“This is highly inappropriate,” said John Gallery, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “There is no need for you to be pushing this through today.”
Society Hill Civic Association President Rosanne Loesch also weighed in against the development, echoing others who said the Commission – again – did not give the public enough notice about the hearing.
Said Syrnick: “This was a tough one last time, and it’s a tough one this time.” The Commission approved the updated POD unanimously.
Logan Square, Center City neighborhood plans
Planning Commission senior staffer Richard Redding presented information-only guidelines for official neighborhood plans on behalf of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and the Center City Residents Association (CCRA).
The guidelines would apply to all Philadelphia neighborhood plans prepared by organizations other than the City Planning Commission, with the objective of improving the coordination between community-based plans and the city’s own policies and resources, and to “ensure that efforts are made to include community residents in the planning process.”
The Planning Commission also wants to ensure that hired consultants using public funds for such plans are selected using competitive bidding procedures. Accepted plans would be posted on the Planning Commission’s Web site.
The LSNA currently has a petition posted to its Web site, seeking 100 signatures that urge the Planning Commission to adopt its plan and recommendations, which the organization calls an “important prototype.”
SOPs for PODs?