Art Commission Reviews Zoo, KYW projects

Echoing previous approvals granted by the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Philadelphia Art Commission Wednesday granted conditional approval to a new parking structure planned for the Philadelphia Zoo.

In her reappearance before this Commission, the Zoo’s Nina Bisbee addressed concerns from last month’s meeting about the colorations of the banding on the building, and presented samples for inspection.

Bisbee also brought along samples of the frit pattern which will be applied to the structure’s glass facade, an element intended to help protect birds from crashing into the windows. She also mentioned that the Mural Arts Project would be installing a mural on some of the concrete facade, an announcement that elicited an audible groan from one Commissioner and commensurate giggles from a few audience member.

Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner of Parks and Facilities for P&R, offered public comment that his agency’s commission had issued a final approval, with materials to be reviewed further, and had yet to approve signage and streetscape improvements associated with this ongoing project.

The Art Commission’s ultimate approval, then, bore the condition that the pre-cast concrete and frit choices are subject to the approval of P&R, and noted that the project would need to once again come before both Commissions for the remaining approvals.

The morning’s other major discussion centered on a request by radio station KYW to add its own sign to the top of 400 Market Street, placing it above the distinctive 400 sign that is already up there.

The station is the building’s largest tenant, but not its only one, according to presenters, who added that they had recently been granted a zoning variance to place a second sign (the KYW sign) to the top of the building.

Commissioners immediately signaled their disapproval of having two competing signs on the same facade, then spent a considerable amount of time batting around alternative suggestions.

Ultimately, they presented three to the KYW and building representatives. The preferred choice, they offered, would be for KYW to entirely replace the current 400 sign, or even to take advantage of the zoning and place two KYW signs on two facades.

A second option would be for one 400 sign to stay and one KYW to go up, but each on different facades. The third was for one 400 sign and one KYW sign to share the same facade, placed at different corners — rather than as the proposed one on top of the other.

The other two cases on the agenda were examined briefly and quickly approved. The first was a repeat visit regarding the installation of Barbara Hepworth’s Rock Form at 17th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Commissioners approved a new, smaller, version of its granite base.

The Commission also granted approval to changes requested by a sub-committee, led by Commissioner Emmanuel Kelly, of a SEPTA proposal for new elevators and stair headways at the Race/Vine station. In accordance with the committee’s suggestions, there will be no headhouse over the stairs, and there will be a flat roof over the elevators.

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