Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Erdy-McHenry Garage Gets Zoning Approval

Around the corner from a soon to be bustling North Broad Street is a small surface parking lot. Well, actually there are two, but the unused eyesore with the busted fence will probably remain in the hands of the city forever.

But the one cornered by Arch and Juniper, wedged between the historic Masonic Temple and the United Methodist Church has received zoning approval, and will be developed by Raelen Properties of Berwyn, PA...with a handful of neighborly caveats.

Months ago neighbors were stomping their feet at this proposal in a town meeting (I live here and still can't fathom who these neighbors are), but with concessions made to provide the church with an elevator shaft among other promises to the church and the temple, the naysayers seemed to have settled down.

President of Raelen, Dennis Maloomian is also involved in the conversion of the Liberty Title Building, the historic tower across the street solely occupied by Dunkin' Donuts, into a hotel.

While not officially part of the convention center, the to-be hotel is seen as part of the whole by most. Being the lone private project on the three blocks the Convention Center occupies, if left vacant it would undoubtedly give conventioneers a bad first impression, no matter how bright they light up the facade.

Not too many things are creepier than an abandoned skyscraper, and I'm sure the Philadelphia Planning Commission doesn't want to make things too difficult for Maloomian, especially if word got back that their stubbornness was responsible for the white elephant attached to the PCC.

Nonetheless, Maloomian seemed to have made a very valid case, and seems eager to appease neighbors and build the best garage ever. I'm not a fan of parking garages. Not too many urbanites are. But they're better than surface lots, and Maloomian has chosen to employ local architects Erdy-McHenry to design the building.

Responsible for the Radian at Penn and Avenue North at Temple, their quasi-futuristic approach will be a unique juxtaposition to the masonic structures around City Hall. Initial renderings show a setback accordion style, reflective screen. If implemented, it will be interesting to see how it reflects the new lighting scheme on Broad Street down the Arch Street corridor.

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