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Glassy, tall and modern: This is what 4224 Baltimore Ave. might look like

July 25, 2013

Clark park

A drawing of the proposed building at 43rd and Baltimore. The five-story section in the foreground would include first-floor retail.

The developers of 4224 Baltimore Ave. – across from Clark Park – unveiled drawings during a public meeting last night of a modern, glassy residential building that would include a terraced section that peaks at 10 floors and includes upscale condos.

The design also includes a 5-story section on the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue with first-floor commercial units that would wrap around the structure and, if built, could house a large, street-level restaurant with outdoor seating along 43rd Street. A large rooftop terrace on this section would overlook the park.

The “if built” part is important. The development firm that is proposing the project, U3 Ventures, is a liaison between the community and the property owners, Clarkmore Group LLC, have not seen the drawings. There is no guarantee that the ownership group, which paid $3.5 million for the property in 2008, will go for the plan.

Clarkmore currently has as conditional permit to build a four-story, 92-unit apartment building with six parking spaces. That building would unlikely include any retail space. U3 is hoping the group can be persuaded to build a larger building that could support retail and underground parking. A large majority of the approximately 40 community members attending last night’s meeting gave tacit approval to the plan, which includes 108 rental units – mostly one bedrooms – and 55 resident-owned condos (though that number could drop considerably if the condos are built larger).

The building includes a largely glass and metal facade and would target young professionals and graduate students.

“It has been our observation that what young professionals are looking for is lots of glass,” said architect Cecil Baker.

Several community members voiced concerns that the building, which would be nested among Victorian row homes, would be out of place.

“It doesn’t seem to pay homage to the historical character of the neighborhood,” said one resident.

U3 head Omar Blaik, a former University of Pennsylvania executive who lives a couple of blocks from the site, said he personally felt that a design that tried to be a modern representation of turn-of-the-century architecture would “compete” with Clark Park, which the developers don’t want to do.

Residents were also concerned about the fate of the large trees on the property, some of which are likely more than 100 years old. The developers responded that they are trying to incorporate as many existing trees into the design as possible.

The roof line of the part of the structure along Baltimore Avenue would step up to the east, culminating in a 10-story section. Some residents felt that the height of the building – 92 feet at its highest point – far exceeds current zoning and might prove to be a stumbling block as the project proceeds through the permit process.

That process includes a hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Spruce Hill Community Association’s zoning committee and the City Planning Commission, all of which could take some six months and will include more opportunities for community input.

Blaik said the current zoning limits the property owners choices in building design.

“If we leave it to the current zoning we are forcing the hand of the owner to build a very average product,” he said.

The rub, according to Blaik, is that to build a structure with ample retail and underground parking, amenities that appeal to many in the community as well as potential residents, the building has to be larger to provide more upscale units that would make it economically feasible.

But first the design has to be presented to the property owners, who could reject it and proceed with what the zoning permits now.

Mike Lyons

Clark park

The highest section of the proposed building near the corner of Baltimore Avenue and St. Mark’s Street. The upper floors would house condos.

 

 

 

 

90 Comments For This Post

  1. mds chill Says:

    With this and the 25-story tower at 38th and Chestnut, i’m sure the apparently woefully underserved young professionals will have plenty of the glass they’re looking for.

    Putting a building this large in a residential neighborhood seems like some kind of deliberate provocation. I can’t see how it’s needed or desired.

  2. Brandon Says:

    You would be wrong. As a young professional that loves West Philly I can assure you I desire this type of development.

  3. mds chill Says:

    I love West Philly, too. I love it for its character, and that character has a huge architectural component. It was built as a residential area with mostly large, mostly single-family homes, some (many?) of which have been converted to apartments. There are also apartment buildings (mostly pre-war, some midcentury) whose dimensions and materials harmonize with the older buildings. Something like this is way out of proportion. When you say you love West Philly, what is it that you’re referring to? I’m not being snarky or sarcastic; i would like to know.

  4. Val Says:

    Agree. A glass structure: zowee! how innovative! This is one of those cheesy, familiar monstrosities that appeal to the tasteless and ignorant. If you want to see what this outdated piece of glass will look like twenty years from now, visit NYC–lots of shabby, run-down versions of this design. They don’t have zoning for 92 units and 4 stories, much less for 108 and ten stories. Get real. Who, by the way, are the “majority” of the 40 people who showed up to approve this ghastly ad for Windex?

  5. Mark N. Silber Says:

    I was at the meeting. I dare say the “majority” of the residents were NOT in favor of the project and no one is more impacted than me, as I was the only homeowner whose house is directly across the street on the 4200 block of Baltimore. I believe the meeting was a cheesy sales pitch to get the residents to go along with agreeing to a change the zoning in this residential neighborhood. This building will clash with the historical and architectural character of the immediate neighborhood. It will be completely out of scale with every other structure in the neighborhood. Don’t be fooled by the renderings … actual buildings rarely live up to these drawings. In discussions with other residents after the meeting there is evidence that both the Spruce Hill Neighborhood Association and the University City Historical Society have serious problems with this proposal.

  6. Ron Says:

    Oh you’re were the man in the red striped shirt, huh???
    These so called facts are completely false. You say that the majority was not in favor. The reality is that 30+ people were in favor and your little group of 5 haters were the only ones in disagreement. Now tell how thats the majority.

  7. Adam Says:

    This is absolutely ghastly. The developers should be ashamed.

  8. Tina Says:

    Agree!

  9. Brandon Says:

    Disagree. I think it’ll make a great addition to the neighborhood!

  10. Mark N. Silber Says:

    Good point. I agree. How does this structure compliment the surroundings and acknowledge the graceful charm of our Victorian residential neighborhood?

  11. Tina Says:

    This building is atrocious and will completely destroy the character of the neighborhood!

  12. Jazmin Says:

    This building, while it looks pretty and shiny, doesn’t fit the neighborhood. It’s giant and glass, and most of the buildings around are brick. Many of them are even historical buildings. Why stick a huge building right there? Why not blend it with the neighborhood? Also, 10 stories and retail on the bottom level mean there will be a huge need for parking. 92 units with 6 parking spots is laughable.

    But it is highly unlikely that developers think about what the neighborhood wants and needs. They think with their pocketbooks. If they can build an expensive building for the wealthy and not have to shell out for parking, they’ll make money hand over fist, and that money won’t benefit the neighborhood or longtime residents.

    Here’s what we need: Housing that is affordable to more than just the well-to-do (mixed housing would work nicely), fewer units, more parking, and sure, add some retail space in there, but maybe think about inviting in community organizations as well.

  13. Cathrine Says:

    I would like to address your uninformed accusations about the parking. It was clearly stated that this larger building, will have an underground parking lot. This building plan allows for a lot more than 6 parking spots.

  14. Adam Leeds Says:

    I have nothing against a large apartment or condo building in the area, and nothing against glass-and-steel contemporary buildings in general, but this is dramatically contrary to the spirit of the neighborhood. It doesn’t even try. It willfully doesn’t even try. This is not why people live here. It’s almost insulting to us. I will be actively attending any future meetings to make sure such a design never gets built, and I encourage everyone who posts here to do likewise. If the proposal had been a stately brick structure, for instance, I would have been for it.

    I am also very concerned about what the potential retail clients would be. I would be in favor of small storefronts and spaces that would appeal to local entrepreneurs. I would be furious to see a Starbucks or Chipotle or 7/11.

  15. Jeffrey Says:

    To address your concern about the retail space, I was at the meeting yesterday, and we were assured that a local business/restaurant would be placed on the first floor of the building and not a chain.

  16. People who want to live in glass houses Says:

    Um, the problem is that these shallow glass storefronts are actually designed for commercial chains, not local owners. Commercial chains don’t need much in the way of storage, whereas local owners typically do. Chains have regular deliveries (and also don’t make any actual food: they just nuke chemical concoctions). Never believe what developers tell you. Once they get the zoning approved, they will tell you to go eff yourself, and that you can believe.

  17. Mary Says:

    Sorry, Jeffrey, but the owners’ representatives made no assurances that they would put any specific business in the retail portion of their proposed building. Indeed, they were very careful to say that they could not promise anything about any aspect of their project,that they are merely gathering opinions from the “community” and will present them to the owners for them to accept or reject. They did say that they had talked to the well-known restaurateur Michael Solomonov about occupying the space, but I suspect that is merely name-dropping. In any case, it’s unlikely he would open a restaurant like Zahav in that location – we’d be lucky to get a Federal Donuts branch. And, remember,that’s a take-out with limited hours. Ultimately, if the ZBA allows retail there, the neighbors will have little influence on what businesses go in. So, to those neighbors who say “great” to retail, I’d say: Be careful what you wish for!

  18. Lori Says:

    I share a lot of your concerns here and agree with the sentiment of it being contrary to the spirit of the neighborhood. I cannot imagine sitting in Clark Park and look at that building. This building looks very… Rittenhouse.

  19. Lori Says:

    I say that with full knowledge that Rittenhouse is a desirable place to live to many — it’s just not where I chose to live. I don’t particularly want West Philly to end up looking (or costing) similar.

  20. Brandon Says:

    Fighting high density development will only drive up prices by limiting supply in an area that, like it or not, will be considered increasingly desirable over the next several years.

  21. Elizabeth Says:

    I think this could provide exciting opportunities. I think the main issue I have is that the building is too jarringly “modern” compared to the rest of the neighborhood. I’d like it to have some historical charm that helps it meld in with the surrounding homes and buildings. Additionally, I think that the size is a bit imposing for the neighborhood. I love that there’s green terraces, and I love the idea of retail space on the ground floor, especially if this retail space is geared more for independent businesses rather than chains. One thing that this neighborhood loathes is chains (BIIIIIIG push-back on the Subway up the street, things like that). I think providing quality space for independent small businesses could really help this neighborhood become even more attractive and exciting and help meet the needs of the young professionals and families in the area. I’d be interested in seeing a few other drafts of this idea taking frequently voiced qualms into consideration.

  22. Giant? Says:

    This doesn’t look awful to me. The terracing visually eases the height and when compared to the Universty of Scineces dorm on 42nd that almost backs up to it, it doesn’t even seem particularly tall at the tallest point.

  23. rendering Says:

    just so you know, this rendering doesn’t show the height contrast with the surrounding area. If it was built to the dimensions in this rendering, it would be roughly two and a half times larger than its near neighbors, whom have my sympathies as their modest perches are about to be covered in a dark shadow.

  24. phillyaggie Says:

    ooo the shadow-monster! Why, how could anyone live in a CITY with potential for shadows?!

    Could it be that perhaps neighbors are concerned about losing their free views to Clark Park?

  25. real 46er Says:

    The houses near the park paid for that “free view”. Have you seen the prices of parkside property?

  26. Brandon Says:

    No one pays for, or is guaranteed, a view. The only way to pay for a view is to buy the property between yours and whatever it is you are trying to view.

  27. Brandon Says:

    I’m sure great sympathies were felt for those people with townhouses around Rittenhouse Square when big, bad developers built high-rises that cast shadows on their modest perches.

  28. leonerd Says:

    It is quite idealistic and naive to think that this 10 story, woefully misplaced diet-Mies van der Rohe terrarium will merely “fade” into the background through its use of glass. Rather, this notion seems to be parroted around by architects and developers alike who are too cynical to work on original design that honors the surrounding area.
    Glass is the most overated building material of the late 20th century. I could see the appeal of it if we lived in a mild climate, but unfortunatelt we have hot summers and freezing winters. I used to work at the old city visitor center. It was obnoxiously hot and overlit during the summer and blustery and uninviting during the winter. I can’t imagine the amount of energy (and money) it takes to warm and cool these glass boxes.
    Furthermore, I disagree with this notion that we can either have a “modern” building made of glass or a replication of the past (i.e. naval square). There are many examples throughout the city of thoughtful modern buildings that blend serenely into their surroundings without trying to conjure up some image of a lost past
    like the split level house by QB design in Northern Liberties for example. http://www.idesignarch.com/split-level-house-in-philadelphia/
    While I understand that this building has extremely different parameters, it still works as an example that design is an either/or prospect. Designs like the QB house are able to combine traditional materials like brick while still appealing to these magical young professionals with money to burn on huge windows.

    In any case, I will see you all at the ZBA hearing.

  29. Mark N. Silber Says:

    Very good point. As a resident on the block and a lover of modern architecture I know that it is possible to create a sleek and very modern 21st Century building that is in no way a faux reproduction of a Victorian apartment house, but one that is sensitive and harmonious with it’s surroundings. A truly talented and inspired architect can utilize building materials, shapes, colors, and textures that could compliment the immediate neighborhood – which is a registered historic district by the way – and be both contemporary and elegant at the same time.

    I feel that what we have here is a massively aggressive structure that overshadows – both literally and figuratively! – everything that surrounds it.

  30. Michael Says:

    Thank you. When contemporary architecture is designed well, it can be amazing. The renderings for this project on the other hand are terrible. Also thanks for bringing up the term faux Victorian. Very few contemporary architects understand the details and proportion of classical architecture. Often, when they try building something traditional, it goes horribly wrong. I would point to the Naval Square homes by Toll Brothers as an example of this.

  31. Denise Says:

    The building will look totally out of place in the neighborhood. It looks more “Rittenhouse Square” than anything. Where’s the culture? The art? The community feel? Plus, Clark Park is the highlight of the neighborhood not this shiny, glassy rectangular building. With limited parking, limited trees and limited culture, this plan is a bust.

  32. phillyaggie Says:

    Ironically, Rittenhouse is the way it is (best neighborhood in the city and one of the best in America) precisely due to its built environment which you seem to mock. And you don’t get trees in the middle of buildings. And no parking is free– you pay for it, one way or another. Why do you want more parking when this project is next to so many mass transit lines? What is a private developer to do about something so amorphous as “culture”? Make your own culture if it’s so important to you!

  33. William Says:

    How does one quantify a “best” neighborhood? I moved here from Rittenhouse and have never looked back. The square is great, but no neighborhood feel, no diversity

  34. Brandon Says:

    Are you serious? Rittenhouse Square has as much art, culture, and community feel as any neighborhood in the country. You do realize that the neighborhood is bordered by the Avenue of the ARTS?

    Rittenhouse is a desirable neighborhood BECAUSE of its high rises.

  35. Denise Says:

    Yes Rittenhouse IS artsy and cultural and has nice high rises which is my point. That’s Rittenhouse. How about UC become its OWN piece of the artsy cultural puzzle? This new complex is nice but the overly used glass and metal structure just doesn’t add up with the home-y community and vintage feel of this area – especially right near Victorian homes. Parking is tough for anyone who visits and live around this area. How do we know these new young professionals don’t have cars as well as the residents who have lived here for years? Underground parking would be ideal for the building.

  36. rittenhouse Says:

    In response, to those who uphold Rittenhouse square as a prospective model for Clark Park:
    Indeed, Rittenhouse is a lovely green oasis right smack in the middle of downtown-that is a large part of what makes it nice, and it was nice before the 1950s-1960s when high rises increasingly began to surround it. But its “niceness” is not merely attributable to the high rises. Besides, the mediocre over-priced gimmicky restaurants around the periphery, there isn’t much activity inside the park at night. In fact, my step sister was mugged walking home at night near by and another friend of mine was violently attacked once inside the park. Friends who have lived there would often complain about the anonymity of living in those large buildings.
    And before anyone chimes in, let me reiterate that I like places like Rittenhouse Square or Washington Square, but they are not perfect places-they have their own problems. Not every single green space in the city needs to (or should) aspire to mimic their development patterns.

  37. Brandon Says:

    No one is saying Clark Park should look like Rittenhouse. We are merely responding to people that claim that are high-rises automatically bad by pointing to the fact that the most famous and one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city happens to have high-rises.

    Also, in regards to safety: What does an anecdotal story about a mugging have to do with the kind of development around the park? I can give you examples of people that have been attacked in Clark Park as well. In fact, I walk through Rittenhouse after dark all the time and have never felt unsafe because there are always lots of people around. On the other hand, I would never cut through Clark Park after 10 pm. Anecdotes work both ways.

  38. rittenhouse Says:

    As I said above, I was in no way discrediting Rittenhouse square. I was merely trying to argue that Rittenhouse Square has its faults too. However, mY comment was not meant to be a polemic for or against anything- I am just stating my opinion that each neighborhood deserves to be discussed in its own context. It is unhelpful to talk about a possible high rise in Clark Park by comparing it to development patterns in other parts of the city, in other cities or even in different historic periods. Some of this have to do with zoning issues as they currently stand (even the cmx-2 zoning wouldn’t come to close to meeting this design’s height demand), some of it with the unique concerns of neighborhood homeowners and with the historic conditions of the neighborhood (which in the case of a city like Philadelphia and a historic district like Spruce Hill, should at least be discussed). In terms of the latter, I know this will prompt many of you to talk about the high-rises in old city. But this would also be a dubious comparison, since many of the high-rise developments around Society Hill are the product of a specific mid 20th century ideology around federally mandated “Urban Renewal,” which was a pro-car, anti-pedestrian notion of urban planning that we can all agree to disagree with. Again, this is not to talk poorly on Pei’s Society Hill Towers, but a plea to discuss this development within the proper context of Clark Park in 2013 whether you are for or against the design.

  39. Miriam Says:

    It doesn’t look like Rittenhouse Square. It looks like 40th & Market or 34th and Chestnut.

  40. Brandon Says:

    Maybe it looks like 34th and Chestnut but there is no comparison between this and 40th and Market. That corner is cell phone stores, fried chicken, and low-rise projects.

  41. blurb Says:

    A modern apartment building. The horror.

  42. phillyaggie Says:

    Indeed! Why, West Philly ought to be like the 1800s– perhaps Dickens and little Nell might even roam around and feel at home. Who needs anything new?! 😉 We should all tend to our own gardens, smoke peace pipe, live in Victorian twins, and shun all modernity…unless it comes from something locally hand-made, and locally sold! We’re Porland-East!

  43. false binary Says:

    the conversation shouldn’t be about being forced to chose between strict victorianism and strict modernism (specifically International Style). Modern architecture does not have to mean the same glassy design over and over again. There are a lot of examples of modernist architecture that is human sized while utilzing a variety of building and ornamental materials (without looking like a throwback). The discussion over the building shouldn’t be about creating party lines between one or the other, but about trying to figure out how to make an intelligent building design that clash with the surroundings. Going forward, the discussions between the community and the developers shouldn’t be a battle between 1890 and 2012, but an attempt and creating aesthetic harmony in the built environment. Anything less is rhetoric.

  44. phillyaggie Says:

    Perhaps this will end up with a “facadectomy”, a rather common solution in Philly by now. Or a faux-brick exterior lining. But lots such as this one ought to have dense build-up in order to support all the other things that this city wants but doesn’t have the money or the people to support. Even Washington Square in history-conscious Society Hill has dense, high rise buildings around it.

  45. Mark N. Silber Says:

    No we do not live in Colonial Williamsburg and this is not a “living history museum” but it not unreasonable for local property owners and residents to object when a developer wants the zoning laws abolished just so he or she can plop 10 story 163 unit monstrosity in the middle of a Victorian residential neighborhood, most of which happens to be a registered historic district. There are plenty of new buildings going up in Philly that respect the scale and architecture of the immediate surrounding area – Naval Square for one.

  46. Bill H. Says:

    I’m sure it’s a great plan for the developers.

  47. fromula Says:

    Spot on! Exactly how I feel about Giza: that great big modern pyramidal hulk right in the middle of all that small-scale sand: easily the highest thing around! bheh.

  48. your neighbor Says:

    I love modern architecture but this is horrid. why do so many new buildings in UC look exactly the same – bland, glass and steel? I know I’m being idealistic, but I think a co-housing complex (similar to the Danish model) with owner occupied stores / workshops that serve neighborhood interests would attract the attention of the types of people who are motivated to live in UC as they see it as a real community. And the press (PR!). And older people who need to leave their big old homes but are reluctant to leave the neighborhood they’ve lived in and loved for so long. Maybe not as profitable as the developers would like… I think there will and should be big resistance to this design.

  49. phillyaggie Says:

    Philly is such a workshop of the world in 2013, it really has a great demand for owner-occupied workshops that sell their wares to people in the 10 block radius and make a Bohemian living out of it. We are truly living in a fairly tale world, aren’t we?!

    Who needs a modern apartment building? Who needs single-floor living conditions without having the need to climb 3 flights of stairs between kitchen and bedroom?– Philly has no old people with weak knees, no room for people with disabilities. No, we want our architecture frozen in time…to when WE moved-in, so that it conforms to only our own view of how our neighborhood is.

  50. Timothy Says:

    It’s . . . beautiful.

  51. Mateo De La Cruz Says:

    George Carlin had something to say about you “Not in My Backyard” complainers. He said, “What are you gonna do about it?” The answer is, you’re gonna pout on WEST PHILLY LOCAL. That’s it. That’s all. Enjoy venting while someone else decided to develop an empty lot in your neighborhood. Maybe, I don’t know, be grateful.

  52. REDDOG Says:

    It’s only a empty lot because the owners (legally) torn down the very servicable twin that was there, and kicked out the gardeners who had used the 43rd St. end for many years.

    If both the old twin and the gardens were still there how many people would be in favor of bulldozing both in order to build any of the so called proposed ideas?

    Many might say thats not important since we have to deal with todays reality. I will argue that allowing any of the crap thats been proposed in the ongoing dog and pony show put on by the U3 folk to actually be build would be rewarding the owners for their past decisions, including dropping this empty lot in our lifes for the past 5 years.

  53. Mark N. Silber Says:

    Ummm … didn’t you say the same thing a couple of years ago to the residents that were alarmed about the 10 story building at 40th Street and Pine? I guess their venting didn’t do much good, since Penn went ahead and demolished the 1860 Samuel Sloan house and put up the building.

  54. John Says:

    I think this a great project. Stop living in the past people. You need to accept change and realize that you can’t keep building these old, historical buildings forever.

  55. William Says:

    Explain how one can build and old historic building? That aside, this is one of the ugliest things I’ve seen, we have enough “young professionals” who like our current housing stock, if you want this, go to Northern Liberties.

  56. William Says:

    “an”

  57. John Says:

    You know exactly what I meant when I said “build old, historical buildings”. Everybody here keeps harping on the notion that this project is a modern catastrophe and does not fit the historical essence of this neighborhood. The only way you can accommodate their concerns is by building something that replicates an old and historic building. What I am trying to say is that we must keep moving forward and acknowledge these new modern buildings. From some of these comments, it would seem that these developers were building another Radian or modern monstrosity. I look forward to seeing how this project progresses.

  58. Henry Says:

    I am very excited for this building and I think it will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. As a young professional myself, I would love to live here when it is built.

  59. Val Says:

    What an ugly building. Who are these tasteless people, these non-visionaries? West Phil has a growing national reputation as a rare spot where there is local character, locally owned thriving businesses, a great school, a nice mix of people. Now a few wealthy Penn administrators want to make a bundle by selling condos to Penn students, whose parents will buy for a couple of years, and the students will be loud and drunk and destructive, will drive luxury roadsters, and will leave after they’ve beat the building into a dull ugly dorm, and the developers will by then have left town, their pockets stuffed. And we’ll have a rundown old corny glass building, so tall it blocks the eastern sun from the park. American idiots.

  60. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Please explain to me how Penn administrators are going to capitalize on the selling of these units.

  61. Val Says:

    Sorry — I should have said former Penn administrators, both in charge of Penn’s real estate deals.

  62. Aaron Says:

    First off, I would like to ask you a very important question. Did you even attend the meeting? From your greatly misguided response to this project, I can already tell you are clueless about this topic. First, these developers are not penn administrators, nor are they some rich, wealthy snobs. Secondly, this building is being specifically designed to avoid becoming a dorm for Penn students. That was clearly conveyed in the meeting, which you obviously did not attend. Thirdly, the developers live in West Philly themselves and have lived here for more than 15 years, with a big commitment to the neighborhood. Hopefully you will take the time to actually do some research on what is proposed so you can be more informed before taking such a position.

  63. Mark N. Silber Says:

    I attended the meeting. You are very mistaken about the developers living in the neighborhood … the architectural firm seeking the project hired a paid spokesman who lives several blocks away, but he is no way a member of the Clarkmore Group LLP, which owns the property. Clarkmore is not even a Philadelphia firm. Let’s face it: it was a cheesy sales pitch to garner support to abolish the zoning restrictions. I think you are very naive about Clarkmore Groups intentions – they are out to maximize their profits because they paid way too much for the lot(nothing wrong with that)but you are deluded if you think they care one iota about the neighborhood.

  64. Mary Says:

    Aaron, I did attend the meeting and I have done some research on the project, so perhaps I can clear up some of the confusion you and others suffer from. First, none of the developers live in West Philly. That is, unless the U3 folks are investors in the project but have failed to disclose that, which I very much doubt is the case. Mr. Blaik and Mr. Lussenhop, the U3 principals at the meetings are consultants who specialize in assisting clients in the development of real estate associated with Eds and Meds. They are well-qualified for this, since both are former real estate administrators at Penn. As for the actual investors in 4224: one is Lenard Thylan of Thylan Associates, a New York-based RE investment firm that is registered in NY state as a foreign-owned entity. Another investor is James Campenella, who lives in, and operates his real estate and construction companies from an office in South Philadelphia. Mr. Campenella is almost as well known in criminal justice circles as in the construction business. In 1995, Mr. Campenella was declared “a major marijauna trafficker” by a Federal prosecutor. He ratted out his partner, who is currently serving a 20-year prison term. Mr. Campenella was facing a possible life sentence, but his cooperation earned him 6 months in jail, 18 months house arrest and a $1.4 million fine. Oh, yeah, and 300 hours of community service! Wonder what lucky Boy Scout troop he mentored. Apparently unreformed, Mr. Campenella again appeared in Federal Court in 2007 and pled guilty to corruption charges, specifically giving $20,000 to a Philly tax assessor to lower the property taxes on a number of his properties. An understanding judge gave him probation, a $250,000 fine and more community service! The city worker was fined and lost his job and pension. The Supreme Court recently found the statute they were prosecuted under to be too vague and, hence, unconstitutional. So, their convictions were ultimately overturned. Omar Blaik was a skillful and courteous representative at these “community meetings”, but I think it would have been a helluva lot more fun if ol’ Jim Campenella had shown up instead!

  65. Bianca Says:

    @Val.. Also, get off my lawn!! 🙂

  66. William Says:

    I sincerely hope this does not come to fruition. While this sort of thing might be fitting on 2nd street in Northern Liberties, or Frankfort Avenue, it doesn’t fit this neighborhood. It’s not about being a museum, it’s about the neighborhood character, building something this size, with parking, will cause more cars, slowing trolley service. While it would be nice to see something happen with this space, I really hope for the sake of our neighborhood, this is not it.

  67. Brandon Says:

    We didn’t care about the neighborhood character when we developed West Philly on the Lenape territory.

  68. David Says:

    The reality is that the owner can build a 92-unit box with 6 parking spaces by-right with no zoning changes. The question has to be whether we want that or some variation of this design. This design was a product of several community meetings where everyone had a chance to give their feedback.

    Let’s talk about what we are for rather than what we are against, because being against this design means that you are in favor of the 92 unit box.

  69. Mary Says:

    David, the fact that the owners were able to obtain a so-called “conditional approval permit” for a “92-unit building with 6 parking spaces” does not mean that they ever really planned to erect such a building or that they would ever end up with a construction permit for such a structure. In my opinion, the application for this permit was a sham, since these permits are intended for projects that require no variances to build. This type of permit was introduced in the new zoning code and its aim is to put simple projects (that is, those that have no need to go back and forth with civic groups and city commissions) on a fast track. Unfamiliarity with this new type of permit on the part of both the L&I examiner and our local RCO have been exploited by the owners’ very clever lawyers (Klehr, Harrison). They have managed to turn a device intended to speed the development process for applicants with legitimate as-by-right projects into a weapon they can wield against the community. Rather than asking us to judge their project on its merits and desirability, they threaten us with the prospect of a cheaply-built apartment house that, to quote David Schaaf, the Director of Design for the City Planning Commission: “is lacking in everything urbanistically desirable.” This is not good faith negotiation, this is blackmail, and a crude form at that. Perhaps you are not offended by this approach, David, but I am.

  70. David Says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, Mary. I’m genuinely curious how you would have liked to see the process happen. This is the first developer that I’ve seen engage the community at all. Omar’s explanation about the economics of why the developer either needs to go low end or high end makes sense to me, but I’m happy to hear another perspective.

  71. zoning Says:

    Indeed, but as one who attended the first two meetings, nobody came in wanting a 10-story building-The issue at stake was always how this new development was going to be able to meld into its surroundings while interacting with street life. Suddenly everyone was caught between a four-story windowless bunker and a new Radian. It is a shame that the talks hardly discussed what could be done to fit the current zoning laws through compromise and rational discussion. Instead, these meetings turned into a fantastical thought-project.

  72. Julia Says:

    I’m for solar electricity! And solar hot water! Young professionals love solar! And the building will have a big flat roof that’s up so high that nothing will shade it.

  73. Lizzy Says:

    After reading these comments, I have seen much hate and loathing for this upcoming project. Now, I was at the meeting yesterday and I can assure you that there were only a handful of people (About 5 out of the 45/50 people at that meeting) that didn’t like the plan. So my question is why haven’t you all showed up to these public meetings to voice your concerns. In reality, these comments are most likely being written by the same 5 people with different names.
    Have a great day,
    Lizzy

  74. Mark N. Silber Says:

    Lizzy, were you at the same meeting I was at in International House? First of all, you over counted the number of attendees – there were no more than 40 – and of the 8 or 9 people who spoke at least 6 expressed criticism and skepticism. These include “pillars” of the neighborhood: Mary and Larry from the Spruce Hill Association, Kevin who lives on Baltimore Ave., Mike Hardy (UC Green)and his partner Barry who live on 43rd St., Fran Byers, who lives on Baltimore Ave., and myself, on the Board of Governors of the University City Historical Society. Second of all, not everyone had the opportunity to speak. Obviously you didn’t join us in front of the building after the meeting to discuss what happened … and the fact that is was stacked with “4224” people.

  75. David Says:

    I never heard Mike, Barry, or Fran criticize the plan at the meeting. Did I miss something?

  76. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Well said.

  77. GoldenMonkey Says:

    That’s for Lizzy, not the guy above.

  78. Mary Says:

    Lizzie, I’m sorry that you feel you must resort to accusing your neighbors of dishonesty. This smacks of desperation and is usually an indication that you believe you are losing an argument. Since I was one of the attendees who was not supportive of the owners’ current proposal, I feel personally offended at your suggestion that I, or indeed any of our other neighbors who take a position different from yours, are being deceitful. Let’s put this in perspective. I think our comments should focus on the issues this development presents and not disparage the motives, taste or intelligence of our neighbors. So, can we agree to keep the discussion civil and issues-based? After all, Lizzie, how do I know that you’re not the developer’s secretary, munching potato chips in her pajamas while composing all the snark-laden posts in favor of the project?! Just gotta take you on faith.

  79. GoldenMonkey Says:

    ” After all, Lizzie, how do I know that you’re not the developer’s secretary, munching potato chips in her pajamas while composing all the snark-laden posts in favor of the project?!”

    “So, can we agree to keep the discussion civil and issues-based? ”

    Boy, if that’s not typical West Philly passive-aggressiveness, I don’t know what is.

  80. Mary Says:

    Aww, lighten up a little, goldenmonkey, that was a joke!

  81. GoldenMonkey Says:

    My apologies.

  82. Caroline A Says:

    This is my first time posting about this issue, but after hearing people assert that only a few people are against it, and that these individuals are repeatedly posting under the same name, I have to strongly disagree.

    It was definitely NOT only a handful of people at the meeting who didn’t like the proposal. I was at this meeting as well. Many neighbors were against it, about half the population of the event, if not more, especially considering that the voting was skewed considering how many people the developer brought to the meeting.

    Furthermore, VERY few people who live in this community knew that these meetings were taking place. They were not well advertised, didn’t take place in a location immediately nearby the site ( I know International House is not too far, but why not Calvary or USP? Anywhere in the actual vicinity??) and lastly, occurred at a time when many in the area are picking up their children and coming home from work.

    I’m happy that enough concerned community members turned out to voice their disapproval, but there would have been many more nay-sayers had this meeting actually been publicized.

  83. James Says:

    This structure will have a very positive impact on our community. Some of the most beautiful areas in the world are a juxtaposition of both modern and old architecture right next to each other. Take the “Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion” in Canada as an example:
    http://www.illsendformythings.com/?p=132

  84. Opposed to modern glass next to Clark Park Says:

    Unfortunately I was unable to attend the meeting, but I really DO NOT like this proposal! Too much glass–not appropriate for this neighborhood or for next to historic Clark Park!

  85. daniel Says:

    the forced perspectives are not accurately depicting the context. Architects are masters of deception. At a 10′ floor to floor height, we be look’in at 100′, by my estimate, 50′ towering above the adjacent neighbor, need not to forget the roof top mechanical units. oh boy, she’s a big-in.

  86. Brandon Says:

    Garden Court Plaza is much taller and fits in just fine in the neighborhood. There is room for single family homes, twins, and high-rises.

  87. Elaine Says:

    I’d like to say to Lizzy that I believe you are wrong in assuming my* absence from the meeting equals my support of the project as proposed.

    *And I am pretty sure others agree with me.

    I think this design is totally inappropriate for our neighborhood and hope that the developers can revise their plans so that the material and look of the building will complement our beautiful, historic neighborhood.

  88. Jess Says:

    I agree with many folks who have posted. This design would be such a disservice to the neighborhood. The massing, scale, overall design approach does not take the surrounding homes, park, and business into account. Nothing about it says West Philly, which is such an amazing architectural gem in this city. I wish I could have been at the meeting, to see the design team present this. Do they have any care for the character of our neighborhood? And why are they even talking about heights such as this. The new zoning code doesn’t even allow it. I hope Spruce Hill community association rejects these concepts so the Zoning Board does not grant variances.

  89. Aaron Kreider Says:

    If it going to be this massive, then the developers are getting a handout from the city (high density zoning = free money). They should be giving back to the neighborhood by including affordable low income housing in the building.

  90. Robert Monk Says:

    Aaron Kreider yes there should definitely be a low-income housing set-aside in this building. That’s actually how I happened into this discussion, because I wanted to see if there was one. I would be very surprised and disappointed in Friends of Clark Park and other community planning participant/stakeholder organizations, if low-income housing was not a major element in the community’s list of priorities.

    Does anyone know if low-income housing set-asides are a part of the 160+ units in the plan?








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