Rob Bender photo of Boyd Theatre interior
By Thomas J. Walsh
Judging from the ambitious agenda sent out early Friday evening, Tuesday’s 1 p.m. special meeting of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission looks like it’ll be a doozy, running the gamut from the abstract to the particular.
The recently proposed ordinance to permit the historic designation of public interior spaces of buildings will be discussed. The bill, introduced by Councilman Bill Green in May, has been on the front burner since the city’s Historical Commission re-designated Chestnut Street’s Boyd Theatre as an official historic site 10 days ago. The Boyd is the poster child for the legislation, as the future of its ornate, Art Deco lobby and other interior features hang in the balance while the building is up for sale. (http://www.planphilly.com/node/3666)
The Stamper Square development and its zoning remapping ordinance are back in front of the commission as well. Developer Marc Stein said Monday that he and members of the Society Hill Civic Association would be testifying that city-mandated processes have been moving forward on the mixed-use development. On May 1, City Council unanimously OK’d a rezoning to allow an exception for height and other considerations (http://www.planphilly.com/node/3044). The ordinance contains a one-year “sunset clause” and project-specific deed restrictions recommended by the Planning Commission.
If the commission gets to the Stamper Square issue (it is listed last on the eight-item agenda), there will likely be more opposition voices heard, despite the City Council approvals. Parties that are still against the construction contend that the Historical Commission has not fully weighed in on the property, bounded by Front, Lombard, 2nd and Pine streets.
“We think that everything is where it’s supposed to be,” Stein said. “They’ll be testifying that we worked in good faith and got everything done.” Though hesitant to set a timeline, Stein on Monday pushed back earlier predictions for a November or December groundbreaking, and now hopes to be underway by February or March of 2009.
According to the bill, the ordinance that granted the zoning changes expires April 16, 2009, unless Stein gets an extension from Planning based on “substantial progress toward completion,” or if a building permit has been issued. Stein said that private financing is in place, but is contingent upon permits.
An “information only” presentation for the proposed large-scale development for the north side of Vine Street between 16th and 17th Streets by Grasso Holdings is on the agenda. The $320 million endeavor, which has undergone various incarnations over the years, is to include a large Whole Foods supermarket and a Best Buy. There is also a 40-story, 268-room luxury hotel (Intercontinental), with apartments and condominiums on the upper floors.
A bill detailing encroachments needed for the Grasso development was passed by City Council on June 5 and signed by Mayor Nutter on June 18: http://webapps.phila.gov/council/attachments/5431.pdf
Also to be voted on is the redevelopment agreement with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority for a 15-acre parcel at 3062 S. 61st Street. At issue is the construction of a surface parking lot for trucks using the proposed Eastwick produce terminal.
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