The large armory at Broad and Wharton, vacant since 2003, will likely be demolished to make way for developer Michael Carosella's six story apartment building, designed by Vincent Mancini of Landmark Architectural Design. With its 50 units and Broad Street entrance leading to a surface parking lot of 52 spaces, it sounds a lot like Carl Dranoff's 777 South Broad.
The armory is currently owned by Tolentine Community Center and Development Corporation which has allowed the property to fall into a state of purported disrepair, a claim made all too often in Philadelphia.
What's interesting in a neighborhood that frequently objects to developments along its major corridor, those at a zoning meeting held by the South Broad Street Neighborhood Association seemed to welcome the demolition and redevelopment.
With obvious vested interests in the building's demolition, Mancini and Carosella pitched their proposal to the crowd, citing logistical problems with the building's relationship with the street and impossible restoration. Both the developer and the architect ceded that the only way to redevelop the property would be to bring the building down.
But where was the objective party? And more perplexing, where were the vocal NIMBY members that routinely question the motivation behind any project pitched for their neighborhood?
It's easy to argue that the armory's relationship with the street can be cold, but not only is this the case of any successful warehouse conversion in Callowhill and Northern Liberties, it's Carosella's job as an architect to fix that.
Mancini and Carosella stand to profit more from the demolition of the armory than its renovation and conversion, and there may be nothing wrong with that. But as bias partners claiming that the building must come down - which may very well be true - why has no one questioned that claim?
The answer is likely: Parking.
Unfortunately residents of this densely populated part of town are, through no fault of their own, very dependent on their cars.
It's easy to stereotype Passyunk Square and South Broad as chock full of fixie riding hipsters, but it's even easier to forget how massive South Philly actually is. Even in this particular part of South Philadelphia, there are many more households dependent on their cars than not. And honestly you can't blame the residents, even those that live near the Broad Street Line.
While bike lanes, buses, and the subway are convenient to those working in Center City or University City, the public transportation available to South Philly is not at all convenient to New Jersey, the suburbs, or the farther reaches of the city. The fact that the PPA is forced to ignore thousands of illegally parked cars on the Broad Street and Oregon Avenue medians, and even more parked cars blocking intersections, indicates any project that would add residents will need to provide parking.
If the armory does need to come down to provide this necessary evil, Mancini and Carosella should responsibly provide smart parking. Surface lots stain this city, but residents at the armory site will need to park somewhere. Instead of isolating the residents cars in another asphalt prairie, provide parking underground, or better, in a large garage respectfully designed to interact with the sidewalk and provide additional parking for not just residents, but the cars littering the Broad Street median.
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