Castleway made a preliminary presentation to the City Planning Commission today.
From PlanPhilly.com as reported by Thomas J. Walsh:
The Irish on Walnut
Also before the commission Tuesday was an “information only” presentation by Castleway Properties LLC, an Irish developer with an ambitious skyscraper hotel project for the 1900 block of Walnut, encompassing Moravian Street (and possibly privatizing it) and reaching back to Sansom and 20th streets.
Final specs, approval for the demolition of two historic buildings, financing, partnerships with neighbors and other pieces of the overall picture are months away or longer, but it was an example of something Altman wants to see more of. “This is something we are very much looking forward to,” he said. Bringing projects forward early when they are in the pipeline, especially massive ones that will impact many residents and businesses, establishes the lines of communications and gives the public a formal means of input, he said.
“The northwest corner of Rittenhouse Square needs revitalization – it’s the dead spot on the square,” said Castleway’s Mark King, while delivering a 20-minute overview in a crisp brogue. A “tall, slender, elegant building” would rise on the back end of the development which “steps back up into the city” as you look upon it from the horizon. Western-view drawings of its silhouette illustrate how the tower would accompany the taller Two Liberty. The building, King said, is “not imposing” and “doesn’t impose on the square.”
Plans for the front of the building, next to 1901 Walnut, call for a height that is less than half that of the hotel portion. The development calls for 150 condos and high-end retail on Walnut Street.
To “strike” Moravian Street in that block is what the developers would prefer, but that would need approval from every single of the nine neighbors that share the street there, just to get the ball rolling.
Altman and Greenberger, in a scenario that is becoming familiar, asked direct, if polite, questions. Good cop, bad cop they are not, but persistence is proving to be slightly devilish in its details. Where are you on circulation, traffic impact and collaborations with the Streets Department? Altman asked. “Our desire is to have an agreement with [the Center City Residents Association] that will show effects of overall conditions.” Said Greenberger: “Can I strongly suggest that you figure out restrictions” and that you work with staff?
Here, too, Altman suggested that the re-zoning process be tied to a specific project (Castleway was heard before the Stamper Square presentation). There is a time frame for performance, Altman said, and to avoid “some sort of entitlement into perpetuity” on the site, an agreement needs to be struck that is a sort of template for these kinds of issues.
Trying to fundamentally change the way the Planning Commission does business, within the “gray area” leading up to a new zoning code and the accustomed, ingrained means of navigating the city’s ways seems like a catch-22 to new observers of the body. Developing this much space with this many moving parts on the 1900 block of Walnut “is obviously a very bold project,” Altman said. “When are you coming back?”
Answer: By mid-June.