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Mormon Apartment Tower Cruises Through Civic Design Review

Renderings via BLT Architects/RAMSA , Photos: James Jennings

The 32-story Mormon-backed apartment tower and meetinghouse on Vine Street made it through the Civic Design Review process pretty much unscathed, even without much (or any) info about the required public art component for the site. According to Kellie Patrick Gates of PlanPhilly, the committee only asked that the project open a public garden space, improve traffic-flow on Wood Street and use better materials that just blacktop for the public courtyard. Seems reasonable, but why isn't the lack of plan for public art more of an issue for the large scale project that, when combined with the large Temple at 18th Street, will eventually fill in two full blocks between Wood and Vine Street? Like most things in this town, it's complicated. As per PlanPhilly:

But the committee let the project through, seemingly persuaded by the Mormon's attorney on the project, Peter Kelsen, and its senior real estate manager, Michael Marcheschi, who said that it would be months before the public art program was finalized, and the construction schedule would be greatly delayed if CDR made the church return with that plan before closing its review. Besides, Kelsen said, this is a special circumstance. The complex of residential, church and other spaces triggered CDR review because it is more than 100,000 square feet and calls for more than 100 residential units. Because it also sits on RDA-controlled land, it must also earn RDA approvals. It is part of the Franklintown Renewal Plan. Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority rules also require the church to spend 1 percent of the project's total cost on public art.

See, it's complicated. The crazy combination of constructing multiple projects, when and where permits were filed and who actually owns the land makes this one confusing ordeal when it comes to the required installation of public art. They hope to start work in October and won't have plans finalized for the public art portion until January or February of 2015. The potential sites include the perimeter of the site as well as the courtyard. The plans include 264 apartments in the tower accompanied by 13 rental townhomes and 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. It also includes a multipurpose meetinghouse on the wonky corner of Franklin Town Boulevard and Vine Street.
· Mormon Apartment Tower, Meetinghouse Head to Civic Review [Curbed Philly]
· Latter Day Saints meeting house and associated residential tower pass muster at CDR, without public art details [PlanPhilly]