Commission recommends development proposal at 401 Race

The City Planning Commission voted on Tuesday to support developer Priderock Capital Group’s proposal to build a 4-story, 216-unit apartment complex at 4th and Race streets in Old City.

The project, which will go before the zoning board later this month, disappointed the Civic Design Review Committee in two meeting over the summer. The Committee felt it was overly suburban, not ambitious enough for the site, and unnecessarily cheap in terms of materials.

Nancy Rogo-Trainer, a Commissioner and chair of the CDR Committee, summarized the committee’s feelings on Tuesday.

“We struggled with a way of saying, ‘You should be more aspirational,’” she said.

The materials in particular are disappointing, she said.

“It’s really kind of sad when someone building a block from Independence Mall thinks that standard brick is too deluxe a material, too expensive,” she said. “To me, that speaks volumes.”

Alan Greenberger, the Commission chairman, said he didn’t have any problems with the two variances the developer is seeking, for height and loading. He also said the prominence of the site may not be “what it’s cracked up to be,” given that the south side of the property faces a solid blank wall across Race Street. But he agreed with Rogo-Trainer about the larger economy bricks the developers are planning to use.

“Normal brick speaks to something about the context of Philadelphia and its residential world …” Greenberger said. “These 4-inch bricks look like a utility brick that speaks to a lack of generosity.”

Ultimately, the zoning board will decide whether the project can move forward. That decision will be based, theoretically, on whether the developers can make a case that the underlying zoning creates a hardship on their property. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 26.

Watch full video of the hearing below

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