Unimpressed but unempowered, design committee gets a final look at Broad & Washington project

It took Bart Blatstein less than two minutes to describe the changes he made to his proposed mixed-use megaproject at Broad & Washington since his first presentation left the Civic Design Review Committee a little confused and underwhelmed last month.

The 32-story tower that wraps the corner of Broad and Carpenter streets has been shifted 60 feet west along Carpenter and 60 feet south along Broad. And there’s a new public stairway leading to the Provencal rooftop retail village at the corner of 13th and Washington. C’est tout.

Committee members and neighbors thanked Blatstein for those changes, and then reiterated a series of larger concerns. There’s still an excess of above-ground parking, they said. It’s still a superblock, only navigable by a long walk around the perimeter, rather than through the middle. Long, tall, blank walls line Carpenter Street.

The tower is going to cast long shadows on the surrounding neighborhood, said one resident. The design bears no relation to the architecture of the surrounding area, said another. The project can be built as a major gateway to Center City without being so tall, said a third. Tiffany Green, a Point Breeze resident, said the community would be happy with something more like 777 South Broad Street, a shorter mixed-use project built by Carl Dranoff.

Nancy Rogo-Trainer, chairwoman of the CDR committee, said the project feels more like a wall between South Philly and Center City than a gateway to downtown Philadelphia. The changes to the design are “perfunctory,” she said; its problems are “profound.”

“I would go back to the drawing board,” Rogo-Trainer said.

Blatstein thanked the Committee for its comments. Legally, that was more than he was obliged to do. The Committee’s review is advisory only, and it can’t make a developer return to present a project a third time.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment will decide whether the project can move forward after a hearing on April 27

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