Sunday, March 15, 2015

So Many Cranes in the Sky!

If you enjoyed last week's weather by wandering outside, you might have noticed quite a few construction cranes in the sky. That's because Philadelphia is currently experience a building boom, one that stands to put 2005 to shame. The city's skyline is about to change forever, and the growth isn't just taking place where you'd expect it. Developers are building high in the sky in University City and for the first time ever, one of our tallest skyscrapers will soon be west of the Schuylkill River.

Large-scale residential and retail projects are developing along Market East and north of Vine Street and, like the dense development taking place in West Philadelphia, challenging our notion of "downtown." 

Here's a quick rundown of what's taking place, and what we have to look forward to.

Under Construction

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center
1121 feet
A few years ago Comcast altered the skyline with Comcast Center, its national headquarters. The wildly growing company hadn't had enough, and employed the world renowned starchitects at Norman + Foster to deliver some serious panache. Once completed, the CITC will be the tallest skyscraper in the United States outside New York and Chicago. 

FMC Tower at Cira Centre South
730 feet
When Cesar Pelli's design for the first phase of the Cira Centre made headlines, some were appalled, some cheered, but many were certain it would never be built. Once we got used to its crystalline and asymmetrical presence along the Schuylkill River, we were sure the master plan had been abandoned. Then Campus Crest and Erdy-McHenry delivered the Evo, the tallest student housing in the country. Before Campus Crest could fill its infinity pool with sweeping views of the Center City skyline, the unthinkable happened: Brandywine Realty Trust found a tenant right here in the city, allowing them to complete Cira Centre South. Will we soon see a proposed Cira Centre North? There's certainly room to keep building.

500 Walnut
380 feet
Building in Society Hill is tricky, just ask John Turchi. At the height of the last building boom he attempted to convert the debatably historic Dilworth House into his private residence before being shot down by stubborn community associations. The mansion remains vacant. But building tall within earshot of some of the nation's most sacred history has been unheard-of for a long time. 500 Walnut is bringing the amenities, and the height, of Rittenhouse Square back to the city's first premier address and will forever alter photographs of Independence Hall.

1601 Vine Street
370 feet
The Mormons don't mess around. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' has the money to build big, build fast, and build quality. For decades, Vine Street has been a wasteland of surface parking lots discouraging developers from bridging the gap between Center City and neighborhoods eager to thrive just north of the Expressway. The city's first Mormon Temple is nearing completion and will handsomely compliment the city's Basilica, Free Library, and cultural institutions. Risking logic - or perhaps understanding how ridiculous the Expressway is as a barrier - the Mormons have hired Robert A. M. Stern to build a high-rise befitting Rittenhouse Square just north of the highway canyon. 

Welcome to Little Salt Lake City.

1919 Market Street
337 feet
Who ever thought this would happen? Once intended for a carbon copy of the skyscraper just to its east, this lot has been vacant for as long as many can remember. For decades it's been the site of proposals destined to flop. Nearby residential development has begged us to ask if Philadelphia's West Market Street is a neighborhood that shuts down at five on Friday, or something that deserves more. 1919 Market might just be giving us more Murano, but that means more feet on the ground. Philadelphia has forever been a densely packed and pedestrian friendly city, and our cornerstone of skyscrapers has been our ironically situated black-eye since the demolition of Broad Street Station. The final realization of 1919 Market Street is proof that West Market Street is finally ready to be more than a one-trick pony.

The Summit
279 feet
Go look at this building in person. It is far more astonishing, and tall, than it looks in renderings. In fact, from some angles, it looks like something straight out of a Middle Eastern power city. It's pretty wild and it's redefining what we think of the University City skyline. 

3737 Chestnut
278 feet
It's not nearly as exciting as the Summit, but it is challenging the University City skyline. 

What we have to look forward to...
If the construction cranes aren't enough to satisfy your thirst for a new Philadelphia, get ready for more, because they're coming. Below are some of the most likely skyline altering proposals in and around Center City. 

SLS International Hotel and Residences
590 feet

W Hotel and Residences
582 feet

MIC Tower
429 feet

CHoP on Schuylkill Avenue
375 feet

1900 Chestnut Street
295 feet

East Market
281 feet

One Riverside
260 feet

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