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Civic Design Review approves 4 of 7 major projects in marathon meeting

Hyatt Centric Hotel, PHA Headquarters, and 4th and Callowhill tower move forward

A record-breaking seven design proposals were presented to the Civic Design Review committee yesterday, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Sharswood project that prompted committee member and architect Cecil Baker to say, "It’s a sad day for the CDR."

But not all of the design proposals disappointed Baker and other committee members. Of the seven projects reviewed, four were approved to move forward, and the rest were asked to return for another go at it. Here is how each major development fared at yesterday’s CDR meeting:

PHA’s Headquarters (2013 Ridge Avenue)—This was the PHA’s second visit to the CDR after the design team was asked to address some major comments by the committee in September. Yet BLT Architects made little changes to their original design proposal, save for some minor tweaks to the public plaza to make it less suburban-like.

Baker said of the proposal, "I think it’s a sad day for the CDR, when a quasi-city agency is dealing with another city agency and has created no conversation. [...] I just feel sad."

Vote: Concluded by default, since projects are only required to visit the CDR twice at most.

Aramark’s new headquarters (2402-2414 Market Street)—Fresh off the big announcement of Aramark’s move to 2400 Market, Gensler presented its plans for the property with a focus on the public plaza on the Schuylkill Banks. The current building will double in size, tacking on an extra five stories on top with retail on the ground floor. Yet the committee argued that more needed to be done to ensure that the public space truly felt open to all.

Said committee chair Nancy Rogo Trainer, "I should be able to not just to buy lunch here, but also feel like I can bring my lunch to this public space and eat it here, too." In addition, the design team was called out for not seeking any sustainable certifications on the project.

Vote: Continue the CDR process. Developer PMC Property Group says it will return in 30 days.

Hyatt Centric Hotel (1612 Chancellor Street)—After more than a year of "will it or won’t it," the public found out that a Hyatt Centric Hotel was indeed coming to 17th and Chancellor when renderings were posted to CDR’s website in late September. DAS Architects says one of the hotel’s main goals is to enliven the streetscape to make it more inviting for pedestrians. The ground floor will feature either a high-end retailer or a restaurant, and the second floor will be the lobby and main public space, as well as another potential restaurant.

Vote: Conclude the CDR process.

4th and Callowhill (309-315 Callowhill Street & 444 N. 3rd Street)—This Cecil Baker + Partners-designed project will bring two 23- and 26-story residential towers to a mostly industrial area between Old City and Northern Liberties. The design was partially driven by the East Callowhill zoning overlay (ECO), which was passed to encourage more mixed-use development.

The project is using stormwater management, a public space, mixed-income, and retail for added height bonuses that are within the ECO. The developer said they have no intention of backing out of that agreement, hinting toward PMC Property Group’s recent bait-and-switch move over at One Water Street.

Vote: Conclude the CDR process.

2501 Washington Avenue—This proposal calls for 17 single-family townhomes, two 2-family dwellings, and another 5-story mixed-use development with 64 multi-family dwellings on the fairly drab corner of 25th and Washington in Grays Ferry. The goal is to enliven the corner with retail on the ground and basement levels of the mixed-use building, and make the area a more walkable neighborhood.

Vote: Conclude the CDR process.

1845 Hartranft Street—Down in South Philly, this DesignBlendz project calls for 34 residences with 28 garages and 12 parking spaces. While the interior courtyard of the calls for a sort of green wall option to bring some life to the development, the committee said the building materials facing the rest of the neighborhood are "particularly ungenerous."

Vote: Continue the CDR process.

4440-42 Ridge Avenue—This Harman Deutsch-designed proposal for a 136-unit mixed-use development would be neighbors to the already approved Ridge Flats development at 4300 Ridge Avenue and Falls Bridge Lofts next door. But the committee called the design uninspiring and said that there are some missed opportunities with the current design proposal, including better connections to the Schuylkill River Trail and Kelly Drive.

Vote: Continue the CDR process.