Commission approves apartment tower at 7th and Chestnut

The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted on Tuesday to approve a 32-story apartment tower on the 700 block of Chestnut Street, following the recommendation of its Architectural Committee.

The tower would be built on a surface parking lot owned and operated by Parkway Corporation, a parking company that sometimes develops buildings. The parking lot is in directly next to the Union Trust building, a historic building designed by Willis Hale, the architect of the Divine Lorraine. Parkway plans to retain ownership of the property and to continue to operate some non-accessory parking on the site.

A portion of the proposed tower, which would include around 300 units, would jut out westwardly from the podium and hang above the Union Trust building. At the meeting, Commissioner David Schaaf noted that the property in question is one of the only vacant lots on the 700 block of Chestnut, which he characterized as “one of the most handsome and celebrated design environments in the city.” He said it was worth taking the time to get the design of the building right, and suggested setting back a portion of the overhang so it wouldn’t stick out as much.

Carl Primavera, an attorney representing the developers, said such a setback would result in the loss of about 30 units, which would make it harder to finance the project. Jon Farnham, the director of the Commission, said he’d discussed setting the overhang back with staff and some of them had concluded that it might draw even more attention than if it was flush with the property line. Primavera said the building had to be 65 feet wide to fit all the apartments and the design would insure that the east-facing units got proper light and air.

Primavera said that if the Commission rejected the design, Parkway would likely be in no hurry to develop another proposal for the site because it owns the property outright and is making money from it currently. After the vote, he said the team would take the Commission’s comments to heart and consider potential design changes.

The committee had endorsed the design by a split vote of 4-3. On Friday, the full Commission voted to approve it as well, with three members voting against.

The project is designed by HLW International and developed by Parkway in partnership with Roseland.

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