Monday, December 04, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Bridgman's View

Bridgman's View Tower is becoming one hot potato for Philadelphia. Hoping to avoid a confrontation with City Council over a proposed zoning change for the 900-foot tower, head planner Janice Woodcock paid a call to the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association last week to see whether a shorter, two-tower scheme might be a good compromise. She wants to replace the proposed 900-foot tower on Columbus Boulevard with a pair of high-rises, one 749 feet and one 420-feet. At 900 feet, Bridgman's View would rival Liberty Place in height and be the tallest residential building in the city.

While the tower site has already been rezoned for residential construction, the land for an adjacent - and essential - 1,700-car garage has not. But since the first zoning change, the Delaware's political terrain has changed utterly with the creation the Penn Praxis study group, which has been charged with ending spot zoning and producing a comprehensive master plan for the waterfront.

Woodcock and Penn Praxis have been trying to freeze the rezoning discussion until the study is further along. But it looks like the various powers are unwilling to wait it out. The problem is that the project was conceived under the old rules, when the Street administration believed in leaving the heavy-lifting of planning to the neighborhood groups. Bridgman's developer Marc F. Stein spent months negotiating in good faith with the NLNA to win their support. (He subsequently agreed to contribute $650,000 to a NLNA community development fund - not $4 million as I reported on Friday. Mea Culpe!!) Councilman Frank DiCiccio argues that it would be unfair to penalize Stein now, just because John Street suddenly got religion on planning.

This is a tough one, no doubt about it. It just seems foolish to me to launch the city's most important master plan in decades and then immediately sabotage it - especially with a building that would be a record-breaker and a precedent-setter. But in the interest of realpolitik, Woodcock is now proposing the two-tower scheme. The shorter one would include the parking. The trouble with her compromise - if you can really call it that - is that it actually includes more condo units and therefore requires even more parking space. Seems like just more of the same old, same old spot zoning. When you're on the ground, who's going to know the difference between a 749-foot tower and a 900-foot one.

The real issue for Philadelphia, I believe, is process. Will there be comprehensive planning or seat-of-the-pants planning? It's not just about Bridgman's View, mind you. It's about the entire future of the waterfront. If either the 900-foot tower, or the two shorter ones, are approved now, then that will determines the character of Philadelphia's waterfront, now and forever. It will be pre-set as a place of widely-spaced spike towers, rather than a dense row of 30- and 40-story story apartment houses. That decision will be determined by how City Council votes on the rezoning, which now seems likely to come Dec. 7. Is it really such a big deal to wait a few months to decide an issue that will affect Philadelphia for generations?

Meanwhile, Penn Praxis soldiers on. The first of its several public forums on waterfront planning is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 11 at Saint Anne's Social Hall, Memphis and Tucker Streets (off Lehigh Ave), 6 - 9 p.m. That will be followed by another forum on
Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the George Washington School, 5th and Federal Streets, 6 - 9 p.m. and one on Thursday, Dec. 14 at Independence Seaport Museum, Penn's Landing, 6 - 9 p.m. See their site for more details.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mmeting at the Independence Seaport Museum is on Thursday, Dec. 14th, not the 1st.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing how many people express worries about hurting Big Time Developers! It is PHILADELPHIA'S future at stake, and that's what people should worry about. And, that includes whether other sites will be better for development, or worse. Inga is right, let's be cautious.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last time we went with the "master plan"

we ended up with the Gallery and Market East..

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other developers will galdly step in to a site on the dealware in a major city. especially if it has a master plan in place to prevent such a thing as this from happening again. That is the point of the master plan. so developers and the public can have the security of knowing what is possible in the area.
There are lots of developers in the world. They aren't going to take it personally when we stop one of thier peers. Money is money after all...

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just remember, riverfront is waterfront. The supply of waterfront is one of the most limited land types. Plunk down some clunker, and you'll be looking at it forever. That's just what Tampa did on their riverbank where the Hillsborough River meets the bay. The convention center was put right on the bank. It's a huge blank box. Now, with the area absolutely booming with residential construction, the convention center sits like an 800 pound gorilla - totally out place, out of scale, just a big boring oafish box to be driven around. Had the site been planned for a more socially aesthetic use, it could have contributed to the city scape. John

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The developers have been looking to the future with NLNA for over a year now. I am sure if they just started they would not mind waiting , but that is not the case.They even have supported the NLNA master Plan being done by Interfadce Studios. This project will help this waterfront and not hurt it. If we stall this project many developers will indeed stay far away from Philadelphia as they did when other Plans were created and never followed. The result of that was big box stores that block south philly's access to the water. Atleast these developers have taken the Process and successfully kept a open dialogue with NLNA and the city. Maybe the path that was taken by Bridgemen's View should be a guide to future development. They have included NLNA, City Planning, and even Started to work with Penn Praxis. In which I believe will be a good plan when it finally is finished.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not mind some oversite -- I believe that is why we have a zoning board. PennPraxis is just a way to highlight the U of P name. Let the U of P look at it's own campus. Does it have the most practical, student friendly, enviornmentally safe, and architecturally magnificant urban campus in America? What world renowned buildings are located on its campus that are the object of great admiration and study? Where has it come up with a model campus that is transportation friendly? It has some pretty ugly looking parking lots on its campus. So this is the great institution that is going to tell Philadelphia what is best for Philadelphia! Physcian heal theyself.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, UofP does have a lot to answer for. The single greatest location for the new baseball stadium was next to 30th Street station. It would have been perfect because it was close to downtown. It would have expanded Center City westward. But most importantly, it would have allowed 85% of the fans to get their easily by the regional rails. But, no, that was Penn-controlled and Penn simply prevented that property from being used.

Penn cares about Penn.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people are all idiots.

Penn cares about Penn? Definately, and Penn is located in Philadelphia. Do the math.

Who would you fools like to see in charge? The only Ivy League University in the area (meaning some of the best minds in the entire world with billions at thier disposal) or more of Mayor Streets a-hole friends?
Every move somebody makes, you can bet there is going to be someone ready to log on and complain about it.


there, I said it.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn sucks. Temple rocks.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn is the largest employer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wrong. the state government is the largest employer in pennsylvania.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look I Posted the above diatribe. I do not go to Penn, I went to Drexel. Temple and others are good schools, but lets be honest with ourselves, these schools are not in the same league as Penn. That is why the head of wharton becomes president of U of Maryland and they make it out to be the biggest event in years (see thier homepage).
Penn has access to things that theseo ther schools do not. Money, and the highest quality minds in the world. We would be idiots not to allow them to have a voice in the process, and why, because deep down they make us feel inferior? Get over it.They pay taxes. They are the largest employer in the city by a long shot.
They are old school philly. Like it or not. They have probably been here for longer than anyone's family who has ever seen this page.

In the end, they will give a good design. Not something which is intended to somehow benefit them (as insinuated by a previous writer).

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there's a disjunct betw scholastic theory and practise especially in architecture and urban design. So much of your diatribe about all the greats minds at Univ of Penn is irrelevant. Having attended some of the recent Penn Praxis events, and listening to the somewhat pedantic speakers from Penn, I anticipate that whatever emanates from this process will be largely unrealistic, impractical, and divorced from economic reality. But then again, maybe that's my inferiority complex exposing itself, since my Havard degree obviously has left me unqualified.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to oxford

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we will se who is correct when the project doesn't get not built.


9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, when the developers get chased away and the market changes and nothing gets built, we can all wonder what would have happened.
When the PennPraxis plan dries up and blows away like all the other plans in Philadelphia’s history, we can all wonder what could have happened.
And 15 years down the road when our embarrassment of a waterfront still looks as bad as is does, we can all start arguing again over our ugly waterfront.
By that time the new generation won’t even know about the PennPraxis plan, so we can play ring around the rosy all over again.

Why worry about chasing away the developers? Because there goes the well planned and well deserved private money that we’ve all been waiting for. There goes the charge that could really set a great precedent and bring on some great development. There goes a developer that was willing to work with the community to put a great product in place and at the last minute it gets shafted?

PennPraxis has the right to limit the height of a building that technically isn’t even on the waterfront? What else can they do how much power should they really have? How is the limiting the height of a building at that location to 750’ instead of 915’ related to city planning?

Philadelphia is hurting itself all over again.

7:06 PM  

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