Pennsylvania’s tallest residential building to rise on South Broad

A few years from now, a glass tower will rise above South Broad Street. It will be the tallest residential building in Pennsylvania and, says developer Carl Dranoff, a game-changer.

“This will be a 47-story structure, that rises to the height of 560 feet,” said Dranoff. “Yes, that is taller than William Penn.”

Dranoff has created dozens of buildings in his four-decade career, recently focusing on the South Broad/Avenue of the Arts area with his Symphony House and 777 Broad condos. For this project — his largest — he brought on architect Gene Kohn of Kohn Pedersen Fox, the firm that design One Logan Square (The Four Seasons), 8 Penn Center, and Huntsman Hall at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Kohn, who grew up in Philadelphia and has been based in New York for decades, sees Philadelphia’s next crop of skyscsrapers trending down South Broad Street.

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“Its needs a building to spark it, as a catalyst. Without that it doesn’t happen,” said Kohn. “You need something that sets the pace, that makes people say, ‘That’s a great area to be in.'”

Kohn designed the tower, standing as a sentinel at the front door of the Kimmel Center, on a vertical axis that plays off the horizontal axis of the Kimmel’s dome.

City Councilman Mark Squilla, in whose district the building will rise, called it an “exclamation point.” It will dwarf its surroundings with 150 hotel rooms, and 125 condominiums, a spa, a bar, a restaurant, and a pool.

The residence and hotel, with its amenities, will make the Avenue of the Arts even more of a cultural magnet, said Dranoff.

“It’s got the excitement of all our theaters and culture and the Academy of Music. We’ve got all the restaurants,” said Dranoff. “It really is the center of the city.”

The hotel will be operated by sbe, a nightclub and restaurant company that runs the hotel chain called SLS.

A salute to Philadelphia history

The new building will be on the southeast corner of Spruce and Broad Street, from Spruce all the way down to the Broad Street Ministry Church. Now occupying that property are a vacant lot (most recently a popular pop-up beer garden created by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society),  a vacant building and an art supply store. The historic studios of Philadelphia International Records, the legendary R&B label that created the Philadelphia Sound where hits like “Love Train” and “Me and Mrs. Jones” were written and produced, also are part of the impending footprint.

“We had a lot of good days in that 309 S. Broad St.,” said producer Kenny Gamble, who has owned the building since the 1970s. “It was a great place even before we got there, with Cameo-Parkway [Records]. Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons– the historical aspect of music that came out of that building is unparalleled.”

The studios were damaged three years ago in a fire determined to be arson. The building will be razed to make way for the SLS International — the name of the new building that’s an homage to Philadelphia International Records, Dranoff said.

“I would like to suggest that we try to figure a way to incorporate the recognition of that history, and what it has meant to the people of this city,” said Mayor Michael Nutter at the unveiling of the plans. “The fact that W. Wilson Goode’s office was down there — the first African-American mayor who also made history in this city.”

Dranoff and Kohn acknowledged that creating some kind of historical recognition is on the table as design plans are solidified.

Construction should be completed by 2016.

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