Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mr. Architect Writes About 25th and South

The Philadelphia Planning Commission may have gone into a Rip Van Winkle snooze, but two powerful public agencies are busier than ever making land-use decisions that will affect the look and function of the city for years to come. Both the Redevelopment Authority and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. have accummulated hefty porfolios of real estate - often with the help of taxpayer money. Now, with the market on fire, they have decided, like many land owners, that it is time to sell.

PIDC's latest offering is a small surface parking lot at 25th and South Streets, a quick block from the Philadelphia School. Given Center City's soaring population, it makes sense for the private, K-8 school to buy the land and expand its classroom space. Last year, the school had to turn away 75 applicants. If Philadelphia had a functioning planning department, it would surely point out that you can't sustain the kind of housing growth Center City is seeing without providing corresponding increases in schools, parks and other amenities. To keep things in balance, cities like Vancouver actually demand such amentities when they approve building permits for new housing.

But PIDC often behaves like a purely profit-driven real estate company. It decided to put its South Street lot on the block to see who would offer the best deal. The agency did, however, hold a joint public meeting with the Center City Residents Association last week so neighbors could hear the proposals. There were four in all, three for housing. These aren't huge housing developments, especially compared to Toll Bros.' grand plans for the neighborhood - 700 units, including 200 on South Street and Grays Ferry Ave., near the old Abbots parking garage. I didn't attend the CCRA meeting, but one of my trusty correspondents did. This is what Mr. Architect, as he calls himself, wrote:

The 25th & South Street meeting was the usual cast of characters:
1. Amburn & Jaworsinski's copy of their 15th & Bainbridge Street project for J.Paul, Inc. Handsome, yet uninspired. 16 units, depressed inner court parking.
2. Agoos Lovera's new building for the Philadelphia School. The best project- nice, safe, site-responsive. Still the neighboars complain about playground noise...(Editor's note: The proposal includes a playground area that would be open after school hours to all neighborhood children.)
3. The star of the show: the amazing developer MATZI ! (Editor's note: He developed Delancey Place at 25th and Delancey) with his near-sighted, lap-dog sidekick, JKrollover. Unbelievable chutzpa, in the face the crowd: "I am the greatest thin-to-appun-to-dis-neiborhod"- again, 16 units, court parking-more million dollar houses- of the post colonial-cardboard variety. UGH!
4.McCauffrey Architects w/ Granite Inc. A good solution- a mixed use building on South, with row houses on Naudain- more court parking- though (glaring error)- parking on grade, with louvered "windows" facing the sidewalk on South.
A good time was had by all-


Blogger mark said...

I just browsed thru the DAG list of Center City projects going on right now. Not proposed, rather what is being BUILT right now. There are close to 5,000 units in center city and university city underway.

Inga, thanks and please keep trying to reinforce to the geniuses running this city, that we need to start upgrading and adding to the infrastructure of this very old city.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I normally enjoy your writing, but this is not a well considered post. It is good to see that "Mr. Architect" has the courage of his convictions to place his name behind the petty and childish perjoratives he spews so casually. And how nice of you to publish them ...

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe petty, but it's the truth.

7:34 PM  

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