Newly approved apartments not in Philly waterfront plan

Developers, planners — they’re different species, who sometimes speak altogether different languages.

The Delaware River Waterfront master plan, the culmination of a five-year “visioning” process, painted a picture of a walkable area with what’s called mixed-use spaces: residential and retail integrated into the same buildings. The plan set a height limit of 100 feet.

Now the first residential building has won approval at 120 feet. It’s a rectangular structure with limited retail the developer says he will consider moving to the other side at the request of neighborhood groups.

Developer Lou Cicalese attended many, many meetings. Ultimately, however, the master plan isn’t binding. So, the city visionaries have to make their case persuasive to developers interested in investing money in new construction.

Cicalese stressed the practicalities and economics go into a building project.

“Going forward, we think that as the economy improves, there will be more development proposals coming to the Central Delaware,” said Tom Corcoran whose organization, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, developed the planning document.

“We, as an organization, want to take a strong stand in support of good architecture,” Corcoran said.

In this case, the city’s planner-folk have little leverage. A lot of public money went into the development of public spaces on the adjoining Race Street Pier but Cicalese has not requested any infrastructure improvements around his building, such as new sidewalks or sewers.

As development continues, and the area hopefully becomes more desirable, the city will get a new carrot to entice developers in the direction it envisions.

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

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.