Back in 2004, when funky little firms like CREI were using up and coming urban neighborhoods as their architectural playground for experimental and pricy designs, Brown-Hill proposed its own avant-garde condo development for a forlorn bucolic meadow at 2nd and Race.
It didn't happen, but the sign promising the redevelopment of this inexplicably vacant lot remained for years, reminding pedestrians that a small group of idiots with nothing but idle time and the arrogance to dictate their irrational opinions really can make a difference.
At a sensibly scaled 9 to 10 stories and respectful ground floor relationship, it was good design; and adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, a noisy interstate, and a high speed rail line, it was a good opportunity to develop an unlikely location for residences. But in the heyday of financial optimism, it wasn't good enough for the Old City Civic Association and they managed to keep their beloved vacant lot vacant for another eight years.
Well Brown-Hill is back and, in the wake of the financial crisis and a more realistic outlook on construction opportunities, hoping that the OCCA has a new outlook of their own.
Brown-Hill's new design keeps the same interaction with the sidewalk that it did in it's 2004 design, but proposes and additional six floors. At 198 feet tall it would be the tallest building in Old City. Not that height in any Center City neighborhood is a rational deterrent to development given precedents have been set in much more historically picturesque locations across the city, including Society Hill and Independence Mall. One could even argue that a high rise's presence next to a busy highway insulates the existing real estate from noisy traffic.
We'll find out the fate of the lot tomorrow at the Zoning Board of Adjustment's Hearing.
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