One Riverside, One Classic Skyline View

 

Philly Skyline, new addition | Photo: Bradley Maule, One Riverside rendering: Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners

Philly Skyline, new addition | Photo: Bradley Maule, One Riverside rendering: Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners; composite estimate by Maule

With new details released in an application last week to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s civic design review committee by Dranoff Properties, one question of mine regarding their One Riverside proposal was satisfied: what will it look like from the South Street Bridge?

While there are a number of publicly accessible signature skyline views—those from the Camden riverfront, Belmont Plateau, and the top of the Art Museum steps come to mind—none of them match the immediate wow factor South Street Bridge provides. There’s a reason they rebuilt the lookout turrets on the replacement bridge.

At 20 stories and 148′, One Riverside is no small building, as many observed at the Center City Residents Association meeting about it two weeks ago. CCRA even voted to oppose the project, despite it fitting within the much maligned and famously reformed zoning code, by right. In the application, it appears to double the height of Locust on the Park, the eight-story building also owned by Dranoff just across the street, opened in 1911 as the Lanston Monotype Machine Company’s factory.

In her column on Friday, Inga Saffron (who has a vested interest in the tower’s design, as she owns a plot in the community garden next door) offered six excellent suggestions for improving One Riverside. I’d offer one more: consider the impact on the skyline.

One Riverside rendering by Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners

One Riverside rendering by Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners

To a certain extent, it seems Dranoff and Cecil Baker + Partners have. The application includes a list of the building’s responsibilities, and the first one is “responsibility for view shed and permeability.” It also includes a South Street Bridge view rendering.

As Inga mentioned, the beloved Schuylkill River Park “deserves an exceptional building as its neighbor.” So too does the South Street Bridge skyline view. As currently proposed, One Riverside is not bad, but it’s not exceptional either. The balconies facing the river are sharp, and whichever material they go with for the southern façade will likely succeed as a result of the discussion thus far, but the building’s massing remains plain.

With a triangular property site, there’s potential for a more interesting shape. When the Schuylkill Banks boardwalk is completed, it’s going to be one of the most progressive pieces of civic infrastructure Philadelphia has seen. On a sunny summer day, when hundreds of people are biking, jogging, or just enjoying a stroll, the boardwalk will form an amazing component from the classic South Street Bridge view. As a harbinger of riverfront development and progressive architecture, One Riverside needs to do that, too. It’s getting there.

* * *

The Planning Commission’s civic design review committee will consider One Riverside at its September 3 meeting.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



3 Comments


  1. Bart Blatstein\’s purchase of the Marketplace Design Center will change it even more so! He plans to add a 40 story apartment tower on top of the existing building. The design center is to be consolidated to 2 floors! The first floor is being changed to 7-8 retail spaces/stores… with REI having a store with access to the walk and river over the railroad tracks. Can see it coming … REI kayaks in the river! We heard a Sur la Table is a possibility as well for the 1st floor.

  2. Yuck. Smells like New Yorkers.

  3. This site, being an anomaly of inept zoning officials, calls for a complete reevaluation.
    Too allow such a structure on a sensitive and highly visible site without significant oversight is foolhardy.
    In truth, if this zoning were to be allowed as it stands, then a developer like Dranoff and architects like Cecil Baker are no match for this site. This location demands a more progressive developer and a higher caliber design firm. We failed on this mark with the design of the South Street bridge and who knows what will tower over the Marketplace. Let\’s not let small thinking and opportunism ruin this chance too.

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