PCPC hears about transit and hotel plans

Feb. 17
By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

Executive Director Alan Greenberger commenced Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission by confirming that the originally scheduled discussion of plans to revitalize the Market East corridor was being put off until next Tuesday, Feb. 24, when a special meeting will be held at Jefferson University’s Hamilton Auditorium (1001 Locust Street) at 7 p.m.

“We are proceeding with the planning study we have embarked on,” Greenberger said, but stressed that the meeting would be “purely related to early planning efforts and establishment of principles.” There would be no casino presentation, he said, urging those in attendance to get out the word on that point.

After that, it was a decidedly low-key meeting, with only a half dozen commissioners present.

Information about a proposed six-story hotel at 1222 Locust Street at Camac Street was presented. New York developer Jacob Ungar, through his local entity Lincoln on Locust LP, has retained Growth Properties to manage the 93-room hotel if it is built out. Growth Properties also manages the Latham and Warwick hotels in Center City, along with the Comfort Inn on Penn’s Landing, according to attorney Ronald Harrison.

Built in 1896, the Renaissance style site had been a hotel or, most recently, a 40-plus unit apartment. It suffered an extensive fire in 2006 that caused major interior damage.

Cecil Baker & Partners are the architects for the site. A hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled for late in March. Prior to that, it is assumed the development team will appear again before the Planning Commission at its March 17 meeting. Its biggest issue seems to be a lack of a loading dock or vehicular access to the rear of the building. With no side entrance on Camac planned, parking meters would have to be removed from Locust Street to create a loading zone, which would include trash removal.

The partners still need to negotiate other parking issues as well. A representative said a meeting with the Washington Square West Civic Association is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Design Review Committee
Greenberger announced that the Planning Commission was scheduled to meet with citizens in the coming weeks “to make sure we hear from all of the critical stakeholders” about the proposed Design Review Committee. “We appreciate the material sent to us so far,” he said. There is no new set deadline for input. (Related stories: Feb. 2: http://www.planphilly.com/node/7091; Jan. 27: http://www.planphilly.com/node/6918; Dec. 16: http://www.planphilly.com/node/5340.

Transit-Oriented Development initiatives
Staff planner Richard Redding gave the commissioners a macro-level view of Transit-Oriented Development, and the three related zoning amendment bills were on the agenda, but the staff asked for and received delays to sort through language and technical details still in conflict.

Two of the amendments are centered around City Avenue on Philadelphia’s western border. One would create the “City Avenue Regional Center and Village Center Special District” for the area along 63rd Street between City Avenue and Woodbine Road (the R5 Overbrook Station vicinity). The other would create the “Overbrook Farms Transit-Oriented Center Special District,” with remapping for the area of City Avenue between the Schuylkill Expressway and Stout Road.

A more general bill, now more than a year old, would amend the Zoning Code to create a transit-oriented development district set of controls to promote higher density and mixed-use development near transit stations. That, too, was tabled for a few weeks because of language snags and other problems.

Greenberger honored
PlanPhilly was going to do it properly later this week, but Greenberger beat us to the punch by announcing at the meeting that he was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the highest honor the AIA bestows. He said he was happy for himself but also for the Planning Commission and staff as a whole, and that it “helps our credibility as we move forward.”

From the AIA’s Web site, FAIA membership “is awarded to members who have made contributions of national significance to the profession. Slightly more than 2,600, or 2 percent of all members, have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows. Foreign architects of prominence may be elected to the College as Honorary Fellows of the AIA.”

Contact the reporter at thomaswalsh1@gmail.com.

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