Center City Residents To Voice Opinion On Proposed Schuylkill Riverfront Tower Tonight

August 13, 2013 | by Bradley Maule


The tower's not going to look like this -- it's just a massing study | Image: Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners

The tower’s not going to look like this — it’s just a massing study | Image: Dranoff Properties and Cecil Baker + Partners

Two weeks ago, Inga Saffron broke the news that Carl Dranoff will at last develop the triangular wedge of land on the Schuylkill River he purchased 15 years ago, carefully raising concerns like the good critic she is. Three days later, Dranoff responded with a letter to the editor, stressing that engaging the community is highest concern in this early stage of planning One Riverside Park. Tonight, he’ll get what he wished for.

The Center City Residents Association (CCRA) this evening hosts its monthly zoning committee meeting, and Dranoff’s tower is first on the agenda. As reported by Property Philly yesterday, flyers have been circulated throughout the Fitler Square neighborhood, pleading in bold letters to “STOP THE DRANOFF TOWER,” despite the fact the parcel, for years a surface parking lot at 210 South 25th Street, is currently zoned for tall buildings.

Some Center City residents oppose more Center City residents | Photo by Joel Mathis,

Some Center City residents oppose more Center City residents | Photo by Joel Mathis,

At 21 stories, it would indeed tower over its nearest neighbors: the eight-story Locust on the Park and the six-story Locust Point, each also Dranoff Properties. The Schuylkill River Park Community Garden is the neighbor immediately to the south and would thusly never fall in the tower’s shadow, although as Saffron points out, it could suffer from sunlight reflection without cautious attention to the materials facing the garden.

Now in its tenth year of use, the Schuylkill River Park is wildly successful and popular, and its growth marches southward along the boardwalk under construction, and farther south, the Grays Ferry Crescent and Bartram’s Mile sections. The Locust Street entrance has, despite the occasional railroad crossing controversy (presumably assuaged by the expensive footbridge opened last year), served as the primary access point to the park for residents in the densely populated southwestern portion of Center City, as well as tourists making a day of it on foot from Rittenhouse Square.

One Riverside Park would provide a rest and refreshment station where there currently is none, and it could give Philadelphia an extremely visible architectural icon where Mandeville Place fell through and South Street Bridge failed. With the right design from Cecil Baker + Partners, construction backed by an experienced developer not just in the city but in the very neighborhood, and approval from the City, it’s set up to do just that. And yet, flyers are taped to telephone poles shouting it down, before it’s even presented to the neighborhood.

Tonight, that will happen. CCRA’s zoning committee will review the “application for the erection of a 22 story, multi-family residential/mixed use building with 147 residential units, with retail/commercial use, 83 underground parking spaces, 2 loading spaces and 74 bicycle parking spaces with accessory fitness center, business center, game room and lounge, all as permitted in the RMX-3 zoning classification.” The meeting is at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street, at 7pm.


About the Author

Bradley Maule Bradley Maule is a former 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 (Oregon), Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.


  1. Nabil says:

    What\’s the major complaint here? Blocked views? It happens. Let the city grow.

    1. red dog says:

      The complaint is DRANOFF. Is there reason to think he can build a better then average big building?

      1. Brandon says:

        It doesn\’t really matter what you think, since he owns the land and this is an appropriate spot for a large building.

  2. J.D. says:

    Declared, an \”architectural icon\” : who would resist that, and what could possibly go wrong there… More density, more blocked airspace, more people, more cars — what\’s that when we\’re discussing Icons. Growth is always right; someone will be paid to make the numbers say it\’s sustainable. Let\’s get priorities in order, and go for what we\’re told is good for us. Erk.

    1. Brandon says:

      Concentrating density in appropriate locations–like the downtown of the fifth largest city in the country–is indeed very sustainable. In fact, I cannot think of a better thing that a single person could do for the environment than develop such a parcel in the densest manner possible.

      1. J.D. says:

        Develop to maximum density. Cannot think of better thing. Concentrate density. Develop.

        Sorry, is this the chamber of commerce autobot voicemail again ?

        My mistake.

        1. Brandon says:

          No. It is simply sensible that if you concentrate residents in a walkable location near employment opportunities, recreation opportunities, and public transit then you will limit suburban sprawl and create an environment where people don\’t have to drive everywhere.

  3. Bradley Maule says:

    Following up on how the meeting went, Inga Saffron live tweeted comments from the meeting here — — and Jared Brey wrote a report for Plan Philly here:

    Predictably, as with most community meetings, there were lots of complaints, but there were also some positive comments.

  4. Frank Rizzo says:

    The City should have bought that lot and kept it for access, rather than spending a boatload of money for an overpass just south. Why would anyone want a tall building right next to the river and park? So that only a few very wealthy individuals can have a view of said river and park? The new zoning code is a fine example of crony capitalism at its finest. The politically connected have fared very well under the new zoning code. Ordinary taxpayers and residents have not fared well, and their quality of life will take a hit. If you want high rises hemming in what little greenspace we have in this city, why not simply move to NYC instead of screwing up the quality of life in Philadelphia.

    1. Michael Burlando says:

      Great point, Frank. Could you imagine if green spaces like Rittenhouse Square were hemmed in by buildings taller than three stories? Their character and usefulness as public spaces would be completely ruined!

      The fact is that this tower is well-located and sited to minimize its impact on neighbors. It\’s a great project on privately-owned land, which is zoned correctly. It\’s construction will have no impact on your quality of life or anyone else\’s, other than to bring more residents, taxes, and activity to the city. Awful things, all.

      1. leonard says:

        WHy is it that whenever people are critical of a large scale atmosphere altering project in their immediate vicinity they are instantly labeled as NIMBYs? After all, shouldn\’t people be more concerned with what goes on in their neighborhood-and yes, sometimes this awareness results in criticism-but hey, that\’s democracy for you. Wouldn\’t it had been nice if there were some so called \”NIMBYS\” in Manhattan when they demolished the old Penn Station in the 60\’s. By this logic, would you classify someone like Jane Jacobs as an annoying NIMBY for opposing Robert Moses\’s plan to demolish Washington Square Park to make room for a highway overpass? The fact is that the opinions of the people who live in the neighborhood of this gigantic proposal should be allowed to voice their concerns without being derisively labeled as NIMBY-especially a project as large as the one that is proposed.

        1. Brandon says:

          Jacobs\’ opposition to a project that would have required the taking of hundreds of acres of private and public property and destruction of the fabric of a neighborhood to build an expressway is hardly comparable to a builder wanting to build a by-right 21-story tower in the downtown of a major city on a parking lot that he already owns.

  5. Soldat says:

    We are the 5th largest city in the country, there are gonna be tall buildings, you need to get over it. This is not a 20 story tower slapped into the middle of a bunch of row homes, it is a tower on the river, next to other fairly tall buildings. Futhermore they are not tearing down some old structure, it is a vacant lot that can now develop. More people, more taxes, more property value, is good for the city.

    All this bullshit about overcrowding? We are down 500,000 people since the 1960s, we got some room.

  6. leonard says:

    this overall notion would be way more convincing to me if big projects such as this proposal were selling their units like hot cakes-which they are not-there was an article recently about how riverfront buildings were only just now starting to stabilize after the recession-the big buildings near fish town are still not full and the Piazza-well I don\’t need to make fun of the Piazza as it makes fun of itself-not to mention the foreclosed units on Rittenhouse. While the population loss in philadelphia is just now starting to stabilize, it still seems that most people who move to Philly do not want to pay new york city prices (or anything remotely close to it) for these new construction high-rise \”luxury\” units that have all the aesthetic charm of a plastic Robitussin bottle.

  7. Frank says:

    The more tall buildings in center city the better. I would love center city to be more densely populated and at the same time have a more impressive skyline.

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