March 11: Luxe 26-story tower planned for 5th and Walnut | Neilson to replace Green | Strawberry Mansion vacant collapse | Firefighters’ solar concerns | Rails-to-trails legal blow | Feds expect tough transpo funding fight

Happy Tuesday, Streeters. The lion and lamb sides of March are fighting: Today could hit 60˚ so enjoy it, as tomorrow brings rain and Thursday brings frosty wind.

A skinny, luxury 26-story, 40-unit “glass needle” tower could soon rise on the vacant southwest corner of 5th and Walnut, next to the Penn Mutual building. The Inquirer reports that Developer Tom Scannapieco, who also built the swanky 1706 Rittenhouse, expects to close on the site for $8.5 million shortly and the project is expected to cost $150 million. Each floor will have two units and the top floors will be full-floor units. The penthouses will be 8,400 square feet, two story units with private interior elevators and several balconies. The building’s design, by Cecil Baker, is constrained by court mandated zoning, after a 2012 court case over a previous proposal for the site, and the view of the new building from the Liberty Bell pavilion must also be considered. Baker and the project team have been in conversations with the National Park Service about that viewshed.

Sure there’s a special election to fill Bill Green’s seat on City Council, but really the jig is up and Rep. Ed Neilson will be the new councilman. Dave Davies questions why the city’s 69 ward leaders should get to vote for our new councilman at large, a candidate hand picked by Bob Brady, in a closed door meeting instead of letting the rank and file members of the Democratic Party vote. The move helps Democrats avoid a bruising battle over a Northeast Philadelphia seat in the legislature, but is that good for the city? There is no primary because this is a special election, and given that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six-to-one, Neilson will be the councilman.

A vacant house in Strawberry Mansion collapsed Monday night, NBC10 reports. Neighbors said they contacted L&I about the poor condition of the house at Myrtlewood and Oakdale. Residents of adjacent buildings were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Rooftop solar panels are a cause of concern for firefighters since they take up space where firefighters may need to work and because they are live. NewsWorks reports that Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has introduced legislation requiring that all new solar installations be registered with the fire department. As solar panels become increasingly common, firefighters need more training to deal with solar panels.

And finally, two pieces of national transportation news:

The US Supreme Court dealt a setback to Rails-to-Trails programs in a decision Monday. NPR explains the court’s decision, that once a rail company abandons its tracks the government loses control of the right of way and the property fully reverts to the owner. The case, settling a trail dispute in Wyoming, could have wide-ranging implications for rails-to-trails projects.

The Highway Trust Fund, the federal government’s primary transportation funding source, is set to run out of money in fall. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he expects a rumble with Congress in the fight for transportation funding, the Hill reports. The Obama administration wants Congress to pass a four-year $302 billion appropriations bill for roads and transit before the funding expires.

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