Friday, December 22, 2006

River City Fantasies


I've been a bad blogger lately, and will probably get virtual coal in my web stocking. Can I plead contract-related stress at the Inquirer, and the fact that print deadlines, unlike blog ones, can't be blown off? I resolve to change my ways. In the meantime, here is the rendering of the River City proposal produced by Daroff Design for the megalomaniacally named World Acquisition Group, which was formed by the owners of Sant Properties and Patriot Parking. The rendering appeared in the Inquirer today with my column, but some on-line readers weren't able to view the image.

One little detail that I discovered too late for the column is that Sant Properties' Hardeep Chawla (the brother of World Acquisition's lead developer, Ravi Chawla, and Ed Rendell contributor) just pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. General Services Administration. It seems the scam involved overbilling his government tenants for property tax increases that he had successfully appealed. Since Hardeep make a plea deal with the feds, he'll do just five month's jail time.

With their love of the mega-project and their legal troubles, the Chawlas may become for the Schuylkill waterfront what Harry Eng and his Atlantis Group was to the Delaware. See my March 7 blog entry, A Penn's Landing Footnote.

69 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga, not a bad looking development. So we can agree to disagree on that (what did Rendell's love of big boxy developments have to do with his endorsement of those 4 Atlanta like towers on the Schukyill??. However, I do agree with you it is a little too intense for the size of the site. And the Logan Square neighbors will kill it anyway. Also, Philadelphia will probably not be able to fill all of those Apartments and condos unless the next Mayor gets serious about creating high paying jobs. The last two mayors ER & JS lost more jobs than the previous 5 or 6 mayors combined. Unless center city attracts alot of people fleeing the Northeast who want to avoid the influx of section 8 housing in that area of the city... I don't see the River City development staying afloat.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can only imagine how much money they donated to Mayor Street.

But why did they hire Darroff Design?

Could it have anything to do with Karen Daroff being one of the most politically connected people in Philadelphia?

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

Dear beloved Inga,
Why do you continue to review "proposed projects" that certainly will never be built. There are so many new buildings in town, enough for atleast one blog entry per week. I've been dying to know what you thin of the new "modernist" apartment building at 40th and Chestnut. When Inga? WHEN?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

9:30 PM  
Blogger beardbabe said...

Thank you for posting the rendering. IMHO, you're right: The development is dog-ugly. I assume many of the surrounding buildings have been removed from the picture for clarity purposes. (Why else would there be only ONE Commerce Center building?) It only makes the neighborhood look barren. What a horrible place this would be to work or live.

I doubt this would ever get built. I don't think the city would support it, either politically economically. Perhaps part of it will, or to a much smaller scale.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LSNA will hate anything. Inga this project is only a couple blocks away from Comcast. Would you consider that too much? If the developer is serious it will redsign for street life and more appropriate architecture. The Atlantic Yards situation is a similar one look at what the the market needs and tweek the design. Go for it. Like I said LSNA will hate anything. They are the backwater of CC and will be NIMBY over ANYTHING.

3:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The computer rendering shown is from an unrealistin view. Only those flying in from out of town would ever see it. The view that would clearly show the design flaws would be from the art museum steps where all you would see is a wall of static buildings looming over the parkway. The whole design is sculpturaly static. If you want the feeling of space go to NY and stand on any midtown street. What Philly has to its great benifit is visual breathing room.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Stephen Lauf said...

The reason there is only one Commerce Square is because the base computer model, which was offered as a free download at www.quondam.com in 1998, had only one Commerce Square. Those that downloaded the model were to use it for none commercial purposes, and if images using the model were published, Quondam should receive a credit. Of course, Quondam has never received any credit, and the missing Commerce Square was just one way to identify the 3D computer model of Philadelphia from www.quondam.com

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This city deserves a real architecture and design critic. Someone with the ability to discuss from a design perspective what works and what doesn't, and why. Not someone who is always alleging ulterior motives and unholy alliances over any or every development proposal. Not someone who always reacts negatively to anything that is being proposed even though she lacks that ability to cerate an argument that's back up her opinion.

This city deserves better from the media. Not the same old tired negative responses to everything. No wonder no one buys the dailies anymore.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Steve Maczko said...

I am going to place a spotlight on a different aspect here. I find it noteworthy that there is a constant attempt not only of "alleging unterior motives," as the previous poster put it, but going far beyond that to question the legitmacy of the political structure that supports ECONOMIC development for the benefit of our city.

In this particular piece I find not one but two unsubstantiated attempts to infer guilt by association, without any evidence.

It is presumed that Hardeep is involved in some way with this project. In addition, the insinuation is made that poitical contributons in themselves are evidence of questionable dealings. By doing so, one infers that the Guv is involved in selling his office.

If Inga thinks she can prove such a claim, then she should be talking to the United States Department of Justice.

But since that has, to our knowledge, never happened, it might be the purpose of this type of argument is to prepare for the seizure of power by those who would sell the view that art and design must in every single instance be the sole aim of development.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, River City is a broad concept of growth and height, and it is not specific for each building. The developers have no intentions of actually building River City as its pictured.

Everyone here is missing the point of the project.
While it may be a dream, the intentions of the project are to buy the land, change the zoning, buy the air rights and then SELL the land to serious developers. The new developers would build their own designs (nothing like the picture)! Also, each plot would be sold and developed when demand is there.

Regardless, the area as it sits now looks awful and there is ZERO streetlife. This portion of Logan Square is in the central business district. There are barely any residents there in the first place. Most of the complaining residents do not live by Market/JFK. Finally, the few residents that live in this immediate area should not have the power block Philadelphia's future growth. This location is the only suitable spot for high density growth in Center City!

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Fante said...

If Inga is fighting for design to be the only consideration, the only criteria, when developing land, then she could at least provide arguments with architecture and design perspectives. If Inga actually believes that economic benefit to a city is secondary, then tell us why. Instead, she just trashes every government official and developer for associating with one another.

I mean, gosh, STOP THE PRESSES. Never in my entire life at any other place in the entire universe have I ever witnessed the spectacle of developers and government officials associating with one another.

Developers and government officials do talk to one another. Developers may even contribute to a candidate's campaign. God knows, it's not because he or she may actually like the person or agree the person's politics.

If it's dirty, Inga, prove it. If not: Shut Up

This type of "journalism" has to end. It's destroying this city. That's why circulation at the dailies is falling at such alarming rates.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous sj said...

It isnt shocking that Inqa doesnt like this design or even the prospect of this project. I cant think of too many proposals she is actually in favor of so this isnt a surprise. As someone else noted, this pie in the sky project will not get built, at least not in the form shown to the public so there is no point in reviewing it and alleging that its only being proposed because of political donations. I think its a little simplistic to assume that every "bad" design exists due to political connections.

It would be better to stick to talking about projects that are close to, or under construction.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Mike Dean said...

A healthy, up-front skepticism toward politicians and their contributors is required in this day and age. Especially with Philly's pay-to-play style of development and patronage. Without some monitoring from the press and the people we get the crap design and poorly-planned city we deserve.

Well-planned and well-designed projects add MORE value to the city and its economic health than just slapping up a big ugly box and moving on to the next.

I feel part of Inga's crusade is to have much more thought and input go into the overall city wide plan and initial design of these large scale, skyline-changing projects.

Instead we get, "Oh it's just a concept, it'll be different from the actual design." Bollocks! Why not present the neighborhood associations something more thought out and I bet the kneejerk NIMBYism you decry fades with time.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

I don't see honest skepticism in Inga's comments. In fact, I don't see anything honest in her comments. All she does is allege guilt by association without any credible evidence. Again, the next municipality I see where politicians and developers don't work in the same circles is the first.

And if Inga is against the design of a particular Proposal, then let her present a design argument.

All she does is trash the intentions of individuals, many of whom are looking to improve the economics of the city, without proof.

Let her back up what she alleges with facts.

Let her, as an architecture critic, present an architecture-based argument against a project.

If not, then let's get someone else who can actually discuss architecture. This city deserves better.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that reporting on political corruption and the pay-to-play baloney that goes on in philly IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS i buy the inquirer or daily news. I love that kind of reporting. Indeed, thats what the free press is all about. Thanks Inga. Keep up the great work.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Fante said...

The Inquirer's circulation is sinking like the Titanic, particularly in the city, because the paper doesn't provide an accurate portrayal of life in the city. It doesn't provide any inkling that life in the city is inteersting. It just covers crime, the Eagles, and has a stable of columnists who either mail it in with tired stories that can be written without getting out of bed or smear everything and everyone in the city because of some hidden personal agenda.

This city deserves better.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

LAY-OFF INGA ! INGA IS ALWAYS RIGHT ! IF YOU DON'T WANT TO TO WORSHIP AT THE ALTER OF INGA, FIND ANOTHER ARCHITECTURAL BLOG ! LOVE TO ALL OF YOU, MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!!
VINCE

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Ms. Saffron: While you are certainly very strong in your opinions, your fact checking could use some help. World Acquisition Partners Corporation ("WAPC") was not created by Sant Properties or Patriot Parking. Moreover, neither Hardeep Chawla nor Sant are a part of WAPC and Ravi Chawla has not been part of Sant since July 2000. You should also be aware that Patriot Parking is not involved with the development or ownership of the project, although Richard Zeghibe (whom you misidentified as "Richard Zenger" in your Inquirer article) is. The personal attack against Hardeep Chawla and the incorrect linkage of him to the River City project by you only serves to detract from the legitimate discourse this project has engendered. Before publishing you should take the time to learn the “facts.” Now, how about a little equal time, or perhaps that would interfere with your idea of an open discussion.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corproation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hardeep is the corporate secretary of World Acquisition Partners Corporation, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, Corporations Bureau website. Nice try counselor.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the time period when the City has a buzz for two Casinos with low paying jobs someone has proposed a project five times the size of a casino. Is it not time to see Large corporations return to Philadelphia. Should we not have more fortune 500 corporations head quartered in Philadelphia. Bravo Bravo Bravo on the forward thinking. Let Philadelphia have some lime light that New York has had. Come On down Kipton hotel, St-Regis,Mandarin Oriental,Peninsula Make Philadelphia your home !!

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Anonymous: When predecessor to World Acquisition Partners was formed in 1979, Hardeep Chawla was the secretary. That changed in July 2000 when he fully dissociated from the company. Like many records in the PA corporate database, this one was not updated to reflect the change in officers. I also note that the address is still reported incorrectly on the state database although a change of address notice was filed. However, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are taking appropriate corrective measures.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corproation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

9:12 AM  
Anonymous posadelphia said...

I hope you prove all the naysayers wrong Andrew. Can you expand a bit furter about the project. Timelines, design etc, general facts that will wet our appetite and give us something to fantasize about.

Good luck

10:31 AM  
Anonymous posadelphia said...

Andrew as you are sitting at your desk what odds do you put on something being built on that parking lot at 23rd + Arch in the next 5 years?

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were almost having an intelligent discussion.

But maybe this is an intelligent discussion, present day philly style.

Just not in the Philadelphia style of our cities heritage.

I would say that blaming Inga for falling subscriptions at the dailies is laughable.
Oh, sorry, did you only mean that "her type" of reporting is to blame?
Right.
Does the NY Times not hold itself to a high enough standard of reporting? Their subscriptions are falling too. Really it is a more complicated problem than just blaming your enemies (even if you do get all your friends to post on the same site.) Involved in falling newspaper subscriptions are things like: Internet access, television news, other entertainment options, apathy etc. We could have an honest discussion, but that is a little boring isn't it? Fiery rhetoric is cheap and easy.

It seems like you are a little angry that your project got trashed. Grow up. Did you expect to be greeted with flowers for liberating Logan square? Don’t take it personally. In the last few years we have had the FBI bug, Corey Kemp, Curt Weldon's probe, Fumo's aides inditements, the mayors brother, a handful of mayoral people, concilman mariano and the list goes on. The dailies are involved in investigating these stories (certainly the FBI takes the lead) and citizens thank them for it. Freedom of the press was important enough to go into the constitution. But Mr Esq. if you feel you have been slandered, you would have done something about it, not written about it in a blog.

Should we in this city not be suspicious?

Is it not understandable given the recent history?

There is a problem here in current Philly, Andy from WAP.

If you want to do business here, stay above the fray, and you should be smart enough to realize that you will need to go the extra mile to convince us that you aren't involved in the dirty dealing.

-BVAN

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Anonymous "BVAN" - You seem to be confusing me with some of the others writing under the "Anonymous" name like yourself. The only postings I have made to this blog have been signed by me. My goal is to keep the record straight. You will note that I have not attacked Ms. Saffron on her opinion regarding the River City project; nor have I attacked her on a personal level, as she felt so free to do to others in her article Friday and again in this blog.

While we would love to have Ms. Saffron's support, we are not angry, as you suggest, by her dislike of the project. Any project of this scope is bound to cause controversy which must be addressed through open dialogue.

The freedom of the press you seem to be in favor of comes with a high level of responsibility as well. Fact checking and fair comment are elemental to journalism. I therefore find your rebuke to me for participating in this discussion somewhat curious.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And by the way, I actually like the project.

In theory, that is.

Towers are better then street level parking lots.

But the project looks like the lost city of Atlantis. I half expected to see a glass dome over it. (there wasn't, was there?) And people are scared that it is going to be an inward facing development, like the gallery. Plus that stuff above the train tracks? Has that been done successfully anywhere before? PLEASE, show us where! You have to put some work in here. We want to know, KNOW its going to work.

Somebody wrote that the project as pitched was just to change the zoning and sell to serious develplers. Are we expected to okay something like this? What would be the point? Instead why not just change the entire city zoning code and process (this is a good idea).

Look, if you want it to fly, you can either give the next mayor a big wad of cash.
Or you could give a decent architect a big wad of cash.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Posadelphia: Thank you for your comments and questions. This is exactly what our team is looking for from the community at large. Our desire for open dialogue with the community is also something that was missed by Ms. Saffron in her assault on the preliminary development plan and the people behind it. Now to your questions as stated in your last two posts:

Project Timing

1. There are no formal development timelines at present. We are too early in the process to be anywhere close to establishing a construction schedule. That being said, we do have certain generalized timing goals for the project. During the next two years we will be finishing the development plans and seeking permits for the surface parcels located adjacent to the river on 23rd Street between JFK Blvd. and Cherry Lane (the “River Parcels”), with actual construction occurring thereafter. This is the logical first step, as these parcels will not require the infrastructure work that the air rights development over the Septa tracks will. Additionally, the River Parcels will be primarily for residential, entertainment and retail uses (including a state of the art parking facility); with a significant portion of the public amenities and improvements to be located in this section of the development including access to the park and river. Of course not all of the structures designated for the River Parcels will be built at once, but will be phased in over the course of ten or more years depending on market conditions and demand.

2. During the first five years we hope to begin the infrastructure work for the air rights development over the Septa tracks. This will require building a plinth that will serve as the base of the buildings in this portion of the project and also house a large parking area. We do not anticipate this aspect of construction to occur until we are ready to construct the first building on this portion of the property. The completion of the air rights aspect of the project is anticipated to take over twenty to thirty years, and will also be driven by market conditions.

Realities to Fantasize About

The overarching theme that drives this project is the development team’s desire to do something really special in and for Philadelphia. Yes….we want to make a financial profit, but the best way to do that is to build something spectacular. This project will be the first of its magnitude in Philadelphia to seek certification to the U.S. Green Building Council LEEDS Gold Standard for green projects (see http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19 for more information on this). Some of the more exciting aspects of the development are the public amenities that will be built, including significant open space with a people mover connection to 30th Street Station and easy access to the park and river. When combined with the parking facilities, restaurants, entertainment, media center and retail offerings, Philadelphia River City will be both a gateway to Center City from the west and a landmark component of city life.

The final dimensions and look of Philadelphia River City will be the result of working closely with the Logan Square community, Philadelphia citizens groups and government officials whose input will be taken seriously. While it is impossible for everyone to get everything they want, especially the developers; a successful end result will only come from cooperation amongst the stakeholders and not force-feeding.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew, thank you for offering some clarity on the project. I only ask for better renderings of the proposal (and of course better architecture!).

To the anonymous who asked if a project built on railroad tracks has been built in the past - While I do not know of any already built, I do know that the tracks behind DC's Union Station were recently sold to a developer for a massive project to be built over the next 20 years.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Andrew you graduated from being an ambulance chaser to a fantasy chaser?

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Andrew, Since you obviously know all the players, please tell us why your clients donated so much money to Ed Rendell. I know its their right to do so, so don't go all constitutional on us, that's not the point. But why give so much to Rendell and why now? Try not to dodge the question. And how much did they give to Mayor Street, when and why?

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the promoters for having the bold vision and the chutzpah to acquire the site inspite of the nay sayers. Instead of attacking the promoters, their architect and the Governor why not work with their team to build a World Class project on a stretch of JFK which is used as a speedway and dwellings for the unfortunate homeless. A project this size will have to be built by capable architects, engineers and bankers. There will be teams of professionals working to build retail, hotel, office, entertainment and residential components. The current scheme will be revised many times and even a scaled down version will be a welcome site. The public amenities (open area, olympic size swimming pool, ice staking rink, access to the park, covering the CSX train tracks, sound studio) in this project including a people mover from the train station to 20 St. sound terrific. This project represents 1000s of jobs and investment in Philadelphia for the next 20 years. Let's be positive.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

To the Anonymous writer who queried regarding my clients’ donation to the Governor’s reelection campaign: If I answer your question by stating that Governor Rendell, both now and as mayor of Philadelphia, has proven to be a visionary whose prime motivation is and was the economic rejuvenation of the city and now the Commonwealth, I bet you would think I was avoiding the question. If I were to respond by telling you that the Governor has recognized that promoting business growth and real estate development are instrumental to improving the standard of living in Pennsylvania and promoting job growth, I doubt you would be any more satisfied. If I went on to list the myriad measures taken by Governor Rendell throughout his political career to do what is in the best interest of all of us, I would probably lose your attention altogether. This despite the fact that all of the forgoing are absolutely true.

So how should I answer you when your question implies what you already believe the answer to be? Several bloggers on this site, including yourself as well as Inga Saffron, have implied, some more directly than others, that there is some nefarious reason for my clients’ support of the Governor. Somehow a publicly made contribution is being twisted into a “pay to play” gambit on the order of the city contract and political corruption that is so well publicized. None of this is true and the one piece of evidence that absolutely refutes it is the very means by which you became aware of the contribution in the first place...the readily available campaign finance reports from the Governor’s reelection committee.

As our business has grown, so has our recognition that it is absolutely necessary to be aware of and participate in politics. If you take the time to carefully review all of the political contributions made to any candidate or office holder, you will find that the larger the business, whether real estate development or any other field of endeavor, the more involved they are. Is this a bad thing? I suppose that is a matter of personal opinion. However, the intersection between political leaders and business leaders is absolutely necessary to bringing about the kind of economic growth that we all benefit from. If you allow the relatively few bad examples to taint all of the good that is accomplished by vital public/private associations, then you are simply out of perspective.

We all support those candidates that we vote for. Those of us who contribute to them, either financially or through personal effort, take that support one step further. As responsible business people we have an obligation, not only to our business but to the community that enabled our business to grow, to support candidates that support business.

Yes, Governor Rendell supports the Philadelphia River City project. Yes, he supports business growth generally, which in turn supports job growth, which in turn supports an increased tax base, which in turn supports everyone. Are these bad reasons to contribute to an excellent leader? Absolutely not. Is it bad to also support your own self interest? Also, absolutely not. When you can support someone who accomplishes both missions, that is simply common sense and good business.

I hope this answered your question.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

By the way, my clients have not contributed anything to Mayor Street.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should we care if a certain architect takes credit for this development. Let the free market forces work. I learned that this is a investment of over $ 3.5 billion. According to the late econimist Milton Friedman, this will have an economic impact of $ 35 billion (10 fold or more.) to this region. Think of the big picture. Is this a fantasy?

10:05 PM  
Blogger crochunter said...

the ability to turn a business 'fantasy' into reality is the mark of a visionary business man, the ability to call everything a 'fantasy' that of a 'Journalist'

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga, ask yourself this question. If one of your siblings was involved in a scandal or broke the law, will that make you a lessor of a reporter?

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HOLY CHRIST!

ARE YOU DEFENDING STREET?

His brother was not the first person to come under fire.

I would even say that he may not have even fully known about his brothers antics. But there have been a handful of people who were directly involved with Mayor Street who are in jail today. If he didn't know about any of thier actions, then he is too stupid to be Mayor, if he did know, than he belongs in jail.

And I actually voted for Street instead of Katz. (I wish I could have THAT one back)

By the way, I am in favor of development on any surface parking lot in the city. Bar none. But I am also in favor of good urban design.

The current design needs work. I believe it will get it, The time table is long enough, (30 years ago the first plans were being made for Penns Landing to give everybody some perspective).

I am also in favor of a healthy skepticism. Especially with the track record of this city.

I vote FOR the river city project. But it does need better design.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Pappy said...

In keeping with the legal tenure of this forum here is a

FULL DISCLOSURE: I hail from points elsewhere, I have a personal as well as financial interest in Philadelphia. I love this damn city. I am not a Negadelphian. I know some about where this city has been. I know a lot about where it's going.

So does this development group. Which explains why they are trying to lock down an entire quadrant of Center City, core of the United States' the forth largest metropolitan area. Whatever the land's current cost it will guaranteed figure to be one day one of the greatest real-estate steals in American history. Right up there with the Dutch guys who traded the Indians a couple of wing-nuts for Manhattan in 16-whatever.

It would be foolish so early in this city's renaissance to hand over such a huge project to a relatively unknown, single developer.

On the other hand, the city does need the kind of massive re-development that comes from nearly 50 years of relative dormancy.

In order to make this thing go through to everybody's liking this needs to be approached a little bit better by the group, a little bit smarter, with wide-scale, city wide collaboration and transparent information. All including independent studies shedding light on the design, economic feasibility, environmental impact, ect. ect. Otherwise its just too big a development to swallow with for a for-profit corp. with a high-up politico waving it in so hard without asking any of these questions. Besides there quite enough important projects on the docket right now which also that demand our full attention and citizen oversight

-Pappy

ave.artsendeavors@gmail.com

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Pappy has hit the nail n the head in many ways. The development group is well aware of the overall impact Philadelphia River City will have on the city and the region. They are also well aware that they must include the entire community in the design process. They are also well aware that many aspects of the project will require co-development with various industry specialists.

In the end, there is no benefit to anyone, especially the developers, to do something on this sight that is not fully studied and understood from the outset.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, I disagree that there is no benefit to the developer to do a project without all those things. There is money to be made.
But there is more money to be made in doing it right, doing it with all those things.

This seems to be all that any reasonable people want.

By the way, here is a link to a rabid discussion of this very topic.

http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=24533&page=19


I know that at the meeting ward-leader and LSNA officer Russell Meddin said that there will never be any develpment on the surface level parking lot north of Kennedy house, and the crowd cheered that asinine statement. I consider those peopel to be totally unreasonable. Nothing can be done about them. I am only talking about the people who want sound urban design. For example, what UPenn has done recently with UCity vs what Upenn did in the 80's and early 90's with Ucity.
Lately they have engaged the city and neighborhood, incorporated themselves with it. In the80's they were shutting themselves off from it. Putting up barriers.

What you are saying is good. It sounds like you are open to critical analysis of your design by it's neighbors.

God knows that site needs work. Like the rest of the city, it is a goldmine of potential.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous SJ said...

I cant understand how people can get so bent out of shape over a preliminary rendering. I'm sure if this project moves forward at all it will have little resemblence to the rendering people are so angry about. The notion that bad design is explicitly related to political donations is ridiculous. First of all, Rendell has ALREADY been elected to his 2nd term so even if you were naive enough to believe this project only exists because of the firm's donations that logic wouldn't hold water since he has no need of their money for a future election and has acheived his goal of a 2nd gubernatorial term.

Instead of trying to work with developers to come up with amenable designs it seems like NIMBYs in Philly want to stop projects altogether. I'm not saying ANY development is OK as long as we get something new, but I am saying Philadelphia's recovery isn't at the point where we can go around shunning new projects as if we don't need new residents or commercial space. This is not NYC and we have plenty of room for improvement and expansion.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was the last (first?) time that this developer has built anything good in Philadelphia? Andrew, perhaps you can share with us 3 great new developments of which your clients are most proud. (Not flipping, but ground up, new construction.) That would help us all take your clients as being for real. And, let´s stick with Chawla, not the parking lot guys. Thanks.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

Hey Andrew !
Thank-you for not being anonymous ! You've answered many questions and have, eloquently represented your client's intentions. I agree with Inga and many points made in this on-line discussion, good design is paramount. I want to believe that you are sincere in your promises to the comunity for a superior project. Personally, I think, nothing could be worse than the surface parking-lots that exist on that site, or anywhere else in center city for that matter.
Unfortunately, there are many anonymous nay-sayers in Philadelphia, and there always will be. It is tragic that there ar3e people who want no developement and will do anything in their power to block it.Unfortunately, that's one of the many charactoristics, that makes Philadelphia unique ! But always remember, Inga is god !
Love,
Vince

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Vince: Thank you for your comments and your attitude. You are quite correct regarding the particularly unique characteristics of Philadelphia that you identified. Despite that, the city has undergone a development renaissance over the last decade that is nearly unprecedented. Several factors boded well in bringing this about, not the least of which was the general surge in the real estate market nationally and particularly in the northeast. However, there are two factors that made Philadelphia race ahead of even the positive national and regional trends: 1) the historically gross undervaluation of Philadelphia real estate, particularly in Center City; and 2) the ten year real estate tax abatement. Add to that the development friendly environment promoted by Ed Rendell as Mayor and now as Governor, and the needed critical mass was achieved.

I know that many people misunderstand the tax abatement, believing it costs the city money and benefits only wealthy developers. In truth the abatement is revenue positive to the city overall and revenue neutral for the first ten years as it applies to real estate taxes on developed parcels. The abetment does not reduce the existing taxes on the newly developed parcels; it merely defers implementing the tax on the value of any new development on the parcels for ten years. In the mean time, by spurring new development and redevelopment of existing structures, the abatement is directly responsible for generating millions of dollars in real estate transfer taxes, many construction jobs and new city dwellers; all of whom not only patronize city businesses, but also pay city wage and sales taxes. Then, at the expiration of the abatement, in an annuity-like fashion, the affected properties revert to paying the full property tax. I don’t have the math handy, but the positive effect on the city tax base is exponential. Not to mention the added benefit of causing brand new buildings to be built on empty lots and the redevelopment of underutilized or vacant derelict structures, along with the new vibrancy that all of this has brought to the city. In sum, the tax abatement is a brilliant example of what good government can mean to this city. If only there were more such examples.

Our group wholeheartedly agrees with your assertions regarding “good design.” What Ms. Saffron failed to point out in her article, is that the preliminary utilization drawings she included in the article and the blog have little to do with the actual design of the structures that will be built. Therefore her “critique” of the architectural elements is entirely premature. The Daroff planners who prepared these first stage drawings were tasked with finding the maximum potential utilization of these parcels in accordance with current code requirements. The buildings placed on the schematic are more on the order of stick figures than actual designs. In the next phase we will be working closely with city officials and neighborhood groups as we narrow in on the actual scope of the project in terms of total square footage, the mixture of uses, public amenities and placement of the buildings. Only when these matters have been dealt with will the actual designing of the structures commence in the order that they will be built.

Ms. Saffron also did not mention that the construction will not occur all at once and that the order of construction will be entirely dependent upon all of the usual variables such as market forces. These omissions are unfortunate, especially in light of the access Ms. Saffron had to the Daroff planners and the developers prior to writing the article. All of the forgoing points were made to her during those meetings, including the point that the structures on the drawings were merely demonstrative and far from final.

Up till now, I have refrained from commenting on the substance of the article, as I was more concerned with the factual errors I previously highlighted. But fair is fair, and Ms. Saffron’s readers are entitled to the full story. Philadelphia River City is a complex work in progress that will be subject to many changes and reviews as it progresses. We are far from anything “final” development wise, and we hope those judging us are far from their final opinions as well.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

So it turns out that Inga's allegations are based on false information and poor fact checking. LOL! I wonder if she'll write a retraction.

I also wonder if she's just pissed because the lowly Daily News beat her to the story.

And "BVAN," in all his intellectual might, deducted the real reason that Philly dailies are losing circulation: Readers have more choices to receive their information and they are choosing to overlook the dailies. Another laugher. Imagine that, more choices mean readers are choosing better sources of information.

All the people who are defending Inga for having "suspicions" should be disappointed since she has been awful at proving any of her allegations.

I gave $100 to the Rendell campaign. I guess that means the second bathroom I plan to have built in my Fairmount house will be fast tracked through the zoning board process. Without that $100 contribution I guess I could never build that bathroom.

Inga has shown that she has a keen grasp of architecture and design. Hopefully, she'll return to writing about these things. Or maybe she'd rather work the City Hall beat where she can uncover alleged corruption full time. And the Inquirer will hire an architecture critic who will actually spend his or her time writing about architecture and about the many projects that are actually being built.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not deduction Fante. I figured it out by reading the daily news.

anyway deducted is something that happens to a checking account

I think you mean deduced.

Come on Man!
You're better than that!

Anyway, I'm also FOR this project.

-BVAN

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

My thanks to the Anonymous blogger who directed me to http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=24533&page=19. I will take a look and see what the writers there have to say. And yes…we are open to critical analysis, both objective and subjective. Despite what happened at the LSNA meeting you refer to, we will continue to engage Messrs. Meddin and Stuart and all of the LSNA on a positive basis as this project moves forward.

10:22 AM  
Blogger christoofar said...

Inga - Considering WAP is also on Phillyblog, where we're also infighting the ins and outs over the drama with the Barnes Tower, I reall y think you should also join us over there to in the fray.

One of WAP's General Council has contacted us willing to extend open arms for more discussion about the project, and what to do with it since it is so massive and seems to be an impossibility of ever happening.

I mean, after all... who in their right mind would setup a REIT for something this big?

I recommended that World Acquisition Partners start using focus groups (and getting someone like you, and also the neighborhood, the museum curators, businesses located there, etc) involved in selecting from several different preliminary designs, pick one... finish it... then work with LSNA in moving it forward.

But putting a World Trade Center complex on an area the size of a peanut... don't think anybody wants that, no matter how many Planet Hollywoods and ice rinks you put in it.

1:38 PM  
Blogger christoofar said...

As for LSNA being a bunch of NIMBYs... every single damn NA in the city is basically a NIMBY support group! Get real! Joining a neighborhood association is NOT a good idea if you have a developing ulcer. All the frumpiness of NAs will just exacerbate it.

Anyway, I think involving LSNA (which is a tamer org than Fairmount's or Society Hill's), will help wonders. Logan Square suffers from a lot of dead areas, and here is a developer willing to change almost all the dead space in the neighborhood, in one encompassing project.

LSNA should jump on the chance to huddle with WAP, not to have a pissing contest like the Fairmount/Spring Garden community groups are having with the Barnes developer.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Christoofar: Thank you for your suggestions. We always intended to use focus groups comprised of members of all of the interested parties. Since that is a design matter, we haven't gone there yet as we haven't begun the design process for the actual structures. The property was acquired only one week ago and the process is just beginning from a design standpoint. The drawings that are being focusing on are strictly a maximum utilization study based on the current code requirements. Reality and the maximum potential use are two different things. This was explained to Ms. Saffron when she met with our principals and the designers. The debate is off center for this very reason. The concept is simple…in order to find a best use, you first have to understand what the full possibilities are. To conclude at this stage that that is what is going to be built is absurd.

On the other hand, failing to visualize the best possible use for this wonderful property is also absurd.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corproation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

6:52 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

Thank you for the correction, BVAN. You are right, I meant to write deduced.

Anyway, now that the developer's attorney has shown a willingness to work with the neighborhood on this massive project, let's hope that Inga can focus on the project itself and not smearing the people involved based on some vague "suspicions."

I haven't decided whether I'm for or against the project. There just isn't enough information. I am for the vision of such a project that will bring in employers to create a more diversified job base for the city.

Happy New Year

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Andrew Teitelman:

After the zoning boundaries are defined via the initial conceptuals, is the intent to retain the current designer that has, to my knowledge, no real experience on project's this scale? Rapaport at Daroff certainly doesn't have that extensive a portfolio of realized projects to even judge his ability on. I certainly hope as your project progresses, you look beyond the connected firms in the city to those firms with the track record, resumes, and built portfolio's of projects to make your project truly world class.

3:30 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

To the last Anonymous commentator: In a project of this scope, it is impossible to know who will design the actual structures at this stage. You seem very familiar with Daroff Design and Jim Rappoport, AIA, so I suspect that you have some background in project design. Therefore, you must be aware that there are many variables that determine who will design the buildings when the time is right. For instance, some of the office buildings may have “signature” sponsors who will want to select their own architects. The hotel designs will most likely be driven by their respective brands. Other aspects of the project, such as the retail uses, may be co-developed.

Good architecture like good art is very much in the eye of the beholder. As to Mr. Rappoport’s credentials and experience, I assure you that he has all of the training, experience and talent that are necessary to design first class buildings of the sort that will populate River City. He also has an excellent vision for this project. While his “name” may not be on any Philadelphia skyscrapers, he has contributed to many notable projects including the Atlanta Peachtree Center. That is one of the key reasons Daroff Design is so well connected in the City. They do excellent work!

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Andrew Teitelman:

You're right, "good" design is very much in the eye of the beholder, so we differ quite a bit in our opinions of what constitutes good design from either Jim or Karen's sides of their office. Personally I find all the design from that firm quite mediocre especially when comparing the interior work to that of Rockwell, Beers, Tony Chi, Yabu Pushelburg and just about all the top designers. Rappaport's short list of work (and even shorter built list)doesn't even come close to comparing to work by firm's like KPF, Perkin's & Will, Richard Meier, Renzi Piano, OMA Calatrava, and many many others.

If you truly wanted would class design, what could be really interesting and generate a lot of interest is some sort of invited design competition for both the urban design and for some of the individual more civic buildings resulting from those plans. But that may take a bit too much vision on your company's part. Besides you really don't seem to know the difference betw. mediocre and great design.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Anonymous: In your displeasure with the Daroff firm, you appear to have ignored the first part of my response where I candidly told you we do not know who will be designinng the structures at this point.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corproation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Andrew Teitelman:

No I didn't miss it, just thought your extolling Daroff was just a bit simple minded and uninformed

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Philadelphians,

Stop it! If you have a comment and can support it put your name to it. If you are not proud enough of your comments to own up to them, why would you think I want to hear them?

While I live one block from the proposed River City development I have not taken a position. Because much of what needs to be done has not been done. Meeting with developers, having community input, seeking alternatives to disagreements. Instead, all I have heard is emotional diatribes.

Every property owner in Philadelphia has the right to develop their property - this isn't a communist regime. Can it be done within current regulations? I don't know. What I do know is that if you do not want to see a property developed there is only one solution - buy it. You are doomed to be reactive if you can not get into the mindset of a proactive and rational thinker.

When the Gross Clinic was going to leave the city a group of people got together to buy it. Take that as a recommendation. IF LSNA or any other group doesn't want the property developed, they should buy it.

Donna Ferrari

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you say you "don't know" whether the project meets the current regulations!! The height limit is 125 feet, right?

Why won't you stand with your community? Are you for land use decisions based on political favoritism?

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Dear Donna: Thank you for one of the more rational positions stated in this blog. I hope you will be part of the focus group aspect of this development.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Lawyer: don't rig the jury! Geez.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Still no names. Are you afraid to let us know who you are? Afraid to share your comments while critizng others? Who are you to question my loyalty to my community?

Who in their right mind would support a school district high school right across the street from them? I did because it would have been good for my community. And sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. When the school district propsed the school and committee met numerous times over several months and we were able to gain major considerations for the community. Making LSNA a better place to raise a family.

I have taken no postion on River city because the normal process for developments in LSNA has not taken place. Normally a neighborhood development committee is formed with numerous meetings and reports back to the community. Once all the negoitiations have been done the committee makes and recommendation. When their work is done I will make up my mind because then and only then will I have all of the information - the good and the bad. It's called rational decision making. I will not bow down to hysteria - I want sound and reasoned information.

Want to argue the point? That put your name to your comments.

Donna Ferrari

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

So who is this masked person who is the only voice for an entire community?

Who is this person whose opinions about architecture and design reign supreme and anyone who doesn't share his view on these matters is ignorant?

Who is this person who knows the intent of this development, who knows the players intimately, and who know their motives?

How does this person know so much?

What is the source of his information?

Who is this masked person?

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to good design or good "urban" design.

good architecture can be measured many ways. one is by function. a building which is functinal for many people and many activities(especially those it was designed to allow) can eb considered a good design even if it is not that pleasant to look at. In that case it is less art than utilitarian.

that would not really be in the eye of the beholder. It would be either functional for many people and many uses especially those it was intended to allow, or some degree thereof.
it could be measured. in other words.

but art, cannot be measured.
it would be nice to have something which is beautiful and functional.

but I am sure that everyone agrees that funtional is the most important.

bvan
bryan van lenten

by the way, it is not critical for people to post thier names. we can take comments from Anonymous people.

lets all calm down and take a step back from the ledge.

and Inga, lets get something new up here!

60 posts?

12:32 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

There's nothing wrong with 60-plus posts.

A question we should be asking is does Inga still have a job at the Inky? 68 staff members lost their jobs. There is no official release of the names but some of them are known. I haven't seen Inga's name yet.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. This is all being planned for a major flip - I know that for a fact, since the flipper himself told me – Zeghibe with Ravi standing next to him with large smile.

2. Inga - not sure if the whole article was on the front of your web page, but your here to comment on the architecture and design not if the partners let alone the gov are totally corrupt. Which I am sure they are………………who’s not corrupt in Philly.... Fumo????????

3. The lawyer - Teitelman - Why would you spill all of your beans to people who mean nothing to you or this project- you have given out to much proprietary information on the partnership, the plans, etc - if you were my attorney you would be fired - but you’re the pawn for the flippers.

4. Long story short – for $32 million this deal just about cash flows. If they are lucky enough to find a fool or several fools to buy this marketing plan then god bless them – if not the deal works with a low return and it will sit there vacant for the next 20 years.

More later

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Teitelman said...

Wow…that last Anonymous writer really has a chip on his/her shoulder! He/she spares no one, except possibly him/herself. Why no name? If you are so sure of what you have to say, why not sign off on it? Yes, that could apply to all of the other “Anonymousness” that goes on in this and many other blogs, but your vitriol is special. You claim first hand information and apparently desire that the others in this blog believe and rely on it. So stand up and be counted for who you are.

As to the flipping commentary, if you wish to use the term correctly, a “flip” occurs prior to closing and the “flipper” never takes ownership. Why this term has a negative connotation, as is suggested by your commentary, escapes me. All commerce is based upon perceived value. If anything, the flipping that has occurred broadly throughout Philadelphia in the last several years has done little more than help the rapid ascension of real estate values in the city. As objective business people, it would be foolish not to consider all reasonable options, including a flip, in order to find your best outcome. So why is it bad to flip? You didn’t bother to tell us the reason for that. Nonetheless, this is not a “flip,” as my clients own the property.

I am particularly amused by your ‘everyone is corrupt in Philadelphia’ analysis. Oh yes, it occasionally happens, for sure…but what nerve to assume it happens absolutely. As to your personal attack against me, you are wrong for two reasons:

1. What “beans” have been spilt? Inga reported incorrectly on who was involved in this deal. My clients are not ashamed of the truth and I had their permission to correct the record and none of that was proprietary…in fact most was a matter of public record; and

2. Despite your derogations regarding those who are concerned with this project as meaning “nothing to me, my clients or it,” you are totally wrong! To the contrary, the citizens of this city and, more directly, the immediate neighbors have every right to be informed and given the opportunity to participate in framing this project. If you do not believe that and you think we are fools for including the community, then so be it.

By the way…happy New Year. From what I can see you could use it.

Andrew Teitelman, Esquire
General Counsel
World Acquisition Partners Corporation
AndyT@WorldAcquisitionPartners.com

6:59 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

I hope the "more" anonymous promises is better than what he or she has provided. I mean audacity, buying property then reselling it. I mean what's next, buying stock and reselling that, too?

I still haven't seen a retraction of correction of what Inga wrote. Is she not interested in the truth? Doesn't she have a responsibility to her readers and her employer to be accurate and truthful with her criticisms?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Mark Chalupa said...

I am one of those type residents that will fight by any means to keep the power to protect my home from developers who will try to steal it. And unlike anonymous, I have no problem using my name.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Happened, the board is went shhhhhhhhhhhh?

I guess everyone has made there point.....

8:52 AM  

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