Developers, officials break ground on new apartment tower at 205 Race

Gratitude was flying left and right at a groundbreaking ceremony for a years-in-the-making apartment tower at 2nd and Race on Wednesday morning.

Greg Hill and Jeff Brown, the developers, thanked one another. They thanked Alan Greenberger, the deputy mayor for economic development; Dan Fitzpatrick of Citizens Bank, which is funding the project; and Mark Squilla, the Councilman who introduced a zoning overlay for the project. Greenberger, Fitzpatrick and Squilla then thanked the developers, and each other.

A totally reciprocal matrix of gratitude.

Except none of it landed in the lap of Dominick Cipollini, the president of Keystone Outdoor Advertising, though he was sitting right there toward the back. Cipollini’s three-faced billboard in the surface parking lot across the street nearly derailed the project, because Cipollini worried the tower would block views of the sign.

As Alan Greenberger told PlanPhilly in 2013, “It’s easy for anybody to take [zoning board] matters to court, especially for an owner of outdoor advertising, who spend a lot of money taking people to court and jamming up projects forever … As a practical matter, they’re in a much better position than damn near anybody else to jam it up in the courts.”

At any rate, there are now no lawsuits in sight. The project will seek LEED Gold certification for sustainable features and include 15 units available at reduced rents. It will have commercial space on the ground floor along 2nd Street. Greenberger said on Wednesday that the project is both respectful of the historic character of Old City and progressive in its design.

“When you’re a city that worries a lot about context, your tendency is to be conservative about design,” Greenberger said, pausing while a PATCO train rumbled past across the Ben Franklin Bridge.

He said he said the tendency is probably the right one, but was glad it didn’t carry the day in this case.

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