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L&I: Toll Bros. ‘unity of use’ argument for 29-story tower still under review

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It’s all still up in the air

Whether Toll Brothers can build a 29-story tower on Jewelers Row is under question.
Renderings by SLCE Architects

The city’s Licenses and Inspections (L&I) has not accepted Toll Brothers’ unity of use argument to build a 29-story tower on Jewelers Row, a spokesperson clarified to Curbed Philly.

“L&I has not accepted Toll’s argument for its 29-story project, as currently proposed as a unified-use as best defined by the Supreme Court,” spokesperson Karen Guss said. “We have requested additional information and are awaiting their response and hopefully at that point we’ll be able to take final action on the application.”

The clarification comes after Tuesday’s Civic Design Review meeting, during which the question of air rights was heavily discussed between the committee, members of the public, and Toll Brothers. As Curbed Philly reported, Preservation Alliance’s Paul Steinke inquired how the developer was able to increase the proposed tower’s height from 16 stories to 29. Sixteen stories was the tallest the tower could go, based on the combination of the floor area ratios (FAR) of the five properties purchased on Sansom Street and S. 7th Street.

Zoning lawyer Ron Patterson said they had spoken with L&I and had gotten the okay to proceed with the taller project “under the guidance that it was appropriate” via unity of use, which would allow multiple parcels to be considered as one.

Guss acknowledged that L&I had told the developers “that we do accept the unity of use concept, even though it’s not in the zoning code. The Supreme Court has recognized it in the state of Pennsylvania, so we recognize it.”

“But,” she added, “what we haven’t said is ‘Yes, we are definitely approving this application under that theory.’”

L&I is continuing review of the developer’s application. Meanwhile, three of the five properties will be considered for historic designation at Friday’s Philadelphia Historical Commission meeting.