Making way for Comcast, Council to tweak zoning regulations

During its first meeting of 2014, City Council began making preparations for the tallest building in Philadelphia, the proposed 59-story, 1,121-foot Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, unveiled last week. Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced a handful of Comcast-related bills on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke.

The bills would:

  • Rezone the property from CMX-4 to CMX-5, the least-restrictive commercial zoning classification,*

  • Adjust some regulations of the zoning code to allow Comcast’s project to be built by right,

  • Permit Comcast and development partner Liberty Property Trust to construct and maintain an extension of the Suburban Station transit concourse across 18th Street,

  • Allow encroachments in the public right-of-way, including benches, security bollards, and bike racks,*

  • And authorize the Department of Streets to raise portions of 18th Street and to raise and widen portions of Cuthbert Street between 18th and 19th.

Not a small task.

But because the property will be zoned CMX-5, a commercial classification with no height limit and liberal density standards, the tweaks to the zoning code are relatively few. One is a rather esoteric adjustment to the already esoteric Sky Plane Controls, which regulate building design based on how much sky is viewable by a pedestrian standing in the middle of the street.

Another increases the maximum bonus floor area ratio—the ratio between total square footage and square footage of the parcel of land—from 1,000% to 1,200% in Center City CMX-5 zoning districts.

Another adjustment changes the boundaries of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Area of the Center City Zoning Overlay in order to exempt the Comcast property from some height controls.

*Note: An earlier version of this article mentioned neither the bill upzoning the parcel from CMX-4 to CMX-5 nor the bill permitting encroachments in the public right-of-way.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal