Penn Treaty Tower, Navy Yard updates

Feb. 19

By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission on Tuesday afternoon approved plans and amendments for two significant new buildings along the Delaware Riverfront, but only one is imminent – the other, owing to the current residential real estate downturn, might remain in limbo for the foreseeable future.

The latter is a condominium and museum project called Penn Treaty Tower, to be built adjacent to Penn Treaty Park, in Fishtown on Pier 53, the former site of Maui Club. It would be built on a vacant piece of land in the midst of an industrial area east of Interstate 95. Plans call for 168 condos on 32 floors, with 255 parking spaces on five floors. One of the parking floors would be available for visitors.

Steve Labov, chief operating officer for developer NCCB Associates, of Philadelphia, said after the meeting that NCCB was now only awaiting the state to grant riparian rights for portions of the development that are considered part of the river. He expects them within the next few weeks.

Zoning for the project was originally approved in May 2005. But when construction might actually commence is anyone’s guess. Asked how demand for the condos is right now, he replied, “Terrible.” It is one of a dozen condominium developments on the drawing boards for the riverfront north of Penn’s Landing alone.

The first floor of the building is to include a museum run by the Friends of Penn Treaty Park. NCCB will build out the museum with adjoining public restrooms. The Fishtown Neighbors Association has expressed concerns over the riverfront walkway, landscaping and a lack of other first floor commercial activity. Labov said the plan called for a 10-foot wide bike path to be incorporated into a 25-foot wide swath of green space at the river’s edge that would be a part of a hoped-for stretch of walkway all along the city’s Delaware River waterfront.

At the Navy Yard

The other project was a confirmation of plans for the new office headquarters of Philadelphia’s Tasty Baking Co. headquarters at 3 Crescent Drive in the middle of the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in South Philadelphia. The four-story building, with parking for 332 cars, will sit on 5.5 acres within land that is now part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Plans call for a “gold level” LEED certification. A construction timetable was not given, but the Department of Environment Protection has signed off on the project.

Tasty Baking will occupy 35,000 square feet of the building’s 97,000 total square feet of space. The additional space has yet to be leased, said Brian Berson, project director for Navy Yard development at Liberty Property Trust, a real estate investment trust based in Malvern, Pa.


▲Although there was plenty of PowerPoint text to be seen, there were no blueprints, charts, artist’s renderings or other visuals (on the projected computer screen or on easels) publicly displayed for any of the projects on Tuesday’s agenda.

▲Philadelphia’s submissions to the American Planning Association’s 2008 Great Places in America program have moved forward into the second round. The contest celebrates exceptional planning throughout the nation.

Acting Executive Director Gary Jastrzab told commissioners that the Planning Commission staff submitted entries for three categories: streets, neighborhoods and public spaces. Respectively, they are the Avenue of the Arts; Society Hill; and a combination of Fairmount Park, the Philadelphia Water Works and the river drives (Kelly and Martin Luther King). The top 10 in each category will be featured during the APA’s National Community Planning Month in October.

▲Alan Urek, director of strategic planning and policy, told commissioners that the nine recent “Imagine Philadelphia” public forums in nine citywide neighborhoods were a huge success. In terms of ZIP codes, Urek said that about 75 percent of the city was represented. A healthy amount of “positive and diverse media coverage” helped, he said, and a more informed public resulted in more support for planning initiatives and further expectations of engagement.


Ideas to emerge from the sessions included: Making waterfronts public; burying highways and utility lines; making Center City car-free; establishing farmer’s markets along major corridors; being a leader in green technology via a “green planning lab”; developing creative housing for seniors; reviving the city’s trolley network; promoting an industrial area for new business development, reforming the tax structure; and facilitating more regional cooperation.

Commissioner Nilda Ruiz said that she felt certain neighborhoods were left out, particularly in eastern sections of the city such as Olney, and river wards such as Northern Liberties. Urek said that plans are in the works for more forums – perhaps smaller in scale – that will include those neighborhoods, along with programs that would include the “youth voice.”

Ruiz also inquired about neighborhood planning to be incorporated into citywide plans. Urek said that was the first thing asked for at the forums, and that an inventory of these micro-plans was being created.

▲Speaking of neighborhoods, Planning Commission staffer Marty Gregorski introduced the first “Neighborhood Conservation District” in Queen Village. Such districts will have to be at least two blocks by two blocks in size, and their authority will be limited. Gregorski said they might be considered “Historic District Lite,” since any nationally recognized historic landmarks will always take precedence and any conservation plans will need approval from the city’s Historic Commission before moving on to City Council or the Planning Commission. He said three other neighborhoods are interested in the designation, but did not identify them. The bill was accepted.

▲Camille Cates Barnett, a planning commissioner and the city’s managing director was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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