Preservation

Toll Bros. Render Grim Future For Historic Properties On Jewelers Row

January 25, 2017 | by Michael Bixler

 

Toll Brothers make themselves at home on Jewelers Row in new renderings presented to Washington Square West Civic Association Tuesday night. | Rendering: Toll Brothers

Last night representatives of the national suburban developers Toll Brothers presented their latest renderings for a 115-unit apartment tower in the heart of Jewelers Row to the Washington Square West Civic Association. As reported by PlanPhilly, the five threatened buildings–all dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries–will be demolished if the plan moves forward. The glass-lined tower, originally 16 stories, now looms over the roofline at 29 stories in the updated proposal. The plans includes a four-story, brick-skinned podium with 2,600 square feet of retail space. The block, America’s oldest diamond district, is not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places as an historic district and is currently zoned CMX-5, allowing dense, new construction and by-right development. Much to the dismay of neighbors and preservation activists, Toll Bros. will not preserve the historic facades of 704 and 706-08 Sansom Street, as the company promised in its original plan.

Last September the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia submitted nominations for 704 and 706-08 Sansom Street for placement on the local register in an emergency effort to protect the buildings from demolition. The Historical Commission postponed ruling on the nominations the following November despite overwhelming support from the media, the public, and the Committee on Historic Designation, which voted in favor to recommend the properties for legal protection. In a statement to The Inquirer, Mayor Jim Kenney said, “I do believe that Toll Bros. remains committed to maintaining Jewelers Row as a historical, cultural gem.” The $100 million residential project will go before the Civic Design Review committee in February.

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About the Author

Michael Bixler is the managing editor and communications director of Hidden City Daily. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter with Mountain Xpress weekly in Asheville, North Carolina and a native of South Carolina. Bixler has a keen interest in adaptive reuse, underappreciated architecture, contemporary literature and art, and forward-thinking dialogue about people and place. Follow him on Instagram

9 Comments:

  1. David M. Perkins says:

    This is heartbreaking. Once these buildings are gone, a piece of Philadelphia’s history is gone, never to return — lost forever. Philadelphia is unique among American cities, and moving toward the soulless landscape accepted elsewhere: row upon row of bland glass boxes with no character, diminishing that which makes Philadelphia Philadelphia. Allowing this to happen is criminal, a knife in the heart of the distinctive nature of a grand and singular city.

  2. Davis says:

    This proposal is horrendous.

  3. Joan says:

    It appears that the tower should not be visible from the street, and that the four story frontage blends fairly well. If the developer bought the property and planned to develop it within the legal constraints, why such protestations? In my experience these protests usually arise from someone losing a view or some such NIMBY self-interest.

    1. Davis says:

      Neither am I a neighbor, nor have I any self-interest in this save for believing Philadelphia is losing what makes the city unique.

  4. Brent Friedman says:

    Merriam-Webster:

    MONSTROSITY
    1a : a malformation of a plant or animal
    1b : something deviating from the normal : freak

    2: the quality or state of being monstrous

    3a : an object of great and often frightening size, force, or complexity
    3b : an excessively bad or shocking example

  5. Astralmilkman says:

    It’s just plain laziness that this developer won’t keep the buildings as part of their plan .
    Another bland glass box.

  6. Steve Gotzler says:

    I am almost speechless. There is absolutely no art in this proposal. It is UGLY. But hey, someone will make some money off of it.

  7. Peggy Hartzel says:

    Besides not even coming close to fitting in or honoring tradition, are these glass towers designed in anyway that is sustainable or green that looks to future generations? Think not. I would imagine that Troll Bros headquarters are part of the suburban sprawl across farmland and woods too.

  8. Christopher G McGinnis says:

    I don’t get it, why not just keep the original facades and then build the new behind, up and down?

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