Bridgeman’s View Towers hearings

Council passes resolution about Bridgeman’s View zoning and traffic issues Dec. 7

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the City Council Rules Committee heard testimony from the City Planning Commission, developer Marc Stein and PennPraxis Director Harris Steinberg concerning design and plan changes and requested alterations in zoning requirements for the proposed Bridgeman’s View Tower residential and commercial use development planned for the Northern Liberties waterfront.
    The focus of the hearing is a bill introduced by City Councilman Frank DiCicco requesting a spot zoning change for a 15-story, free-standing garage adjacent to the proposed residential tower.
    Following the testimony, DiCicco lauded the teamwork that has brought the city together in evaluating the project and called for the bill to come out of committee. The first reading of the bill took place in front of council Nov. 30. The bill was approved Dec. 7.

“The developer has been consistent from Day One when he made his proposal to the Northern Liberties communities and has been very supportive of their concerns and has been working tirelessly to address them during this very open and transparent process,” DiCicco said.

According to a statement read by William Kramer, senior zoning planner in the Development Planning Division of the City Planning Commission, the bill would rezone a 1.2 acre parcel located in an area bordered by Canal Street, Laurel Street, Delaware Avenue and Lewellen Street from a designation of “G-2” general industrial to “C-5” commercial.
    Earlier this month, the planning commission requested that a decision on this proposal be postponed due to transit and transportation issues and access to and the amount of parking in the project.

Nov. 28, Kramer testified that the planning commission believes the developer has or will be addressing these concerns based on the fact that the overall height of the project has been reduced from 915 feet to 715 feet and second smaller tower has been introduced in the plan.
    Kramer also noted that a left hand turn from Delaware Avenue into the proposed parking garage is possible and there is bus and subway transit available within walking distance of the project.

Kramer also reported that as part of the Central Delaware Riverfront planning effort, Praxis plans to provide a traffic model for the riverfront that will incorporate a 10-year build-out, including potential casinos. This information will be a basis for future decision making around the issues of parking, public access and building density.
   Stein told committee members that the project would cost between $500 and $600 million, would employ between 400 and 500 tradespeople and should be completed in 42 months.
   According to the developers, the ground floor of the project will contain retail space with a public passage from Delaware Avenue to Canal Street.
    The project will also be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified. There are only two LEED certified buildings in the city at this time. Plans also call for a hotel in the smaller of the two towers.

Praxis’ Steinberg opened his remarks by acknowledging that the development team, the planning commission, the councilman’s office and the neighborhood representatives “have worked assiduoulsy to rework this project.”
    He also noted that the Bridgeman’s View Tower was a work in progress prior to Praxis being authorized by executive order to work with the city and the citizens of Philadelphia to create a civic vision for the Central Delaware Riverfront.

But he pointed out that in this case council is being asked to grant Central Business District land-use status to a single parcel in one of the most historic and sensitive areas of the city.

“We believe that making zoning changes on a parcel-by-parcel basis (a practice commonly referred to as “spot zoning”) is not in the best interest of the city,” Steinberg said in his written testimony to the committee.

In terms of the longer view, Praxis’ fieldwork on the Central Delaware Waterfront project so far has included 15 civic association meetings, three public walk-and-talks, meetings with port-related entities, developers, lawyers, Council, state representatives, and urban planners. That reporting has singled out anticipated additional traffic along Delaware Avenue as the primary concern of all stakeholders.

That said, there has not been a single comprehensive study that addresses the development impact on existing traffic and transportation infrastructure.

Steinberg told committee members Nov. 28 that Praxis has reached out to one of the country’s leading traffic engineers and is in the process of assessing current traffic conditions from Oregon Avenue to Girard Avenue coupled with anticipated traffic from new developments such as Bridgeman’s’ View as well as the casinos.

“We expect to have a preliminary analysis completed by December 20th in time for the announcement of the state casino licenses,” Steinberg said. “We are working on this with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.”

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