At the official Civic Design Review presentation of Toll Brothers’ proposed tower for Jewelers Row, the committee called the design “undercooked” and asked the architect and developer to come back for a second time.
The Civic Design Review committee is an advisory board to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, which means their suggestions for certain projects are non-binding. But they do have the power to ask design-development teams to come back for a second time before moving on to the next step of the city planning process.
The proposal in question calls to demolish four buildings on Jewelers Row and another on 7th Street to make way for a glassy, 24-story tower along Jewelers Row with 85 condo units and ground-floor retail. The most recent iteration of the project was presented to the Washington Square West Civic Association in late January.
The committee expressed a number of concerns about the design proposal, including the lack of connection between the masonry and glass retail podium and the rest of the all-glass tower. Richard Beck of the Washington Square West Civic Association also asked that the designer do more to address the lack of variety on the south-facing facade of the tower so that it “doesn’t look like a glass slab” overlooking Washington Square.
But one of the most-cited concerns from the committee and members of the public was the developer and designer’s decision not to preserve at least the facades of the current structures on Jewelers Row.
Rogo-Trainer asked the team to explain to the committee why they had decided not to preserve them, reminding them that they were addressing a group of architects and designers.
In response, Jim Davidson of SLCE Architects said, “We’ve considered keeping the structures many times. We believe that the value of the retail space will be enhanced with new structures.” He also cited the different floor heights and elevations of the structures.
“So it’s a question of choice, not necessity?” asked Rogo-Trainer.
“Yes,” Davidson replied.
Rogo-Trainer ended the meeting by saying to the design-development team, “We all want you to be successful. [...] This project has potential to be an example of how cities develop in historic neighborhoods.”
She continued, “We want to come back and say, ‘Yes, whether or not the facades are preserved, that Jewelers Row is a place that has been preserved.’”
The group then voted unanimously to continue the CDR process.
Another project proposed for a triangular lot in Northern Liberties was also asked to return to the Civic Design Review. Developer Streamline Solutions and Harman Deutsch Architecture presented plans to build an 82-unit, mixed-use development at 1102. N. 2nd Street, which is largely recognized as a gateway to the neighborhood’s commercial district.
But the committee agreed with the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, which said, “A prominent corner requires a prominent design. [...] The proposal misses this opportunity and sells its location short. [...] The dated, dormitory style building is disappointing.”