Art Commission conceptually approves 500 Walnut

Architect Cecil Baker and developer Tom Scannapieco went before the Philadelphia Art Commission Wednesday with their concepts for creating a 26-story residential tower at 5th and Walnut streets. They were granted conceptual approval with a few caveats, including asking the applicants to bring corrected project renderings, more detailed streetscape plans and examples of exterior contruction materials when they return to the Arts Commission for final approval later this year.

The “ultra-high-end” glass tower will include 40 residential units, with two units each of about 4,000 square feet on floors five through 13, and one 8,000-9,000 square foot unit on floors 14 through 26. The developers are “going after a very small, very rich segment of the population,” said Cecil Baker. There will also be a yet-to-be determined ground-floor retail component at the corner of 5th and Walnut. The building will not include a restaurant but will have a fully automated parking garage.

“What we’re selling to is a market that wants floor-to-ceiling glass,” said architect Cecil Baker, explaining his design for a 26-story residential tower at 5th and Walnut streets to the architecture committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission. “They want New York.”

Tom Scannapieco bought the empty lot at 500 Walnut Street in May for $8.5 million. It sits adjacent to the Liberty Bell and the Mitchell/Giugola designed Penn Mutual Building.

The project has already received zoning approval. It was presented to the Architecture Committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission last Tuesday morning because it lies within a historic district, but the property, a vacant lot, is not individually certified historic.

Architectural Committee members had few comments about the design. Members of the Art Commission and Society Hill neighbors did voice concerns about more community engagement (Cecil Baker said the near neighbors would have voice in the commercial tenant aspects of the project), sight lines for the public garden amenity.

Given project approval, ground breaking is scheduled for Spring 2015 and project completion is expected by 2017. 

Watch the full meeting by clicking on the video below.

500 Walnut site
500 Walnut site

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal