Horsham-based Toll Brothers hopes to replace the large hole at 410 S. Front St. in Society Hill with a 69-unit, 68-foot-tall, gated condominium with 108 underground parking spaces.
That 410 S. Front St. pit, between Pine and Lombard streets and near Head House Square, has eaten other projects.
It had been the proposed location for several developments over the past several decades – including the controversial Stamper Square hotel/condo development, which died when funding fizzled, and another project by Philly native Will Smith. Years ago, it was the site of the failed New Market development.
Launching into his presentation to Society Hill Civic Thursday evening, Toll Brothers City Living division Vice President Brian Emmons said that one member of the team had already been asked if Toll Brothers was actually going to build something.
“Without a doubt, yes,” Emmons said. “We are asking for your support.”
As proposed, the building would be made of brick, stone, concrete glass and metal. The colors, and most of these materials, are similar to those used around Society Hill, a historic area. But the design is a modern take. “We're not trying to be something we're not,” Emmons said.
Civic support is needed to help convince the Zoning Board of Adjustment to grant variances for height and the number of stories. While Stamper Square had received a change in zoning classification to C4 commercial, the change has expired, and it is now once again C2. The developer is not seeking a new class, but variances for height (C2 sets a 35-foot limit) and stories (C2 allows up to three. This building would be either four or five stories, depending on whether one counts the roof-top deck that will overlook the river.)
After the public meeting, SHCA's zoning and historic preservation committee held an executive session to discuss the proposal. SHCA President Steven Weixler said a vote might not happen yet, but even if it did, it would not be made public until after the committee makes a recommendation to the SHCA board and the board votes.
Judging from the applause and questions asked of the developer, however, the presentation went well for Toll Brothers.
Attendees expressed relief over the lack of a tall tower.
They seemed mostly pleased with the design.
While the community will be gated and have a private, interior courtyard, it will also have a smaller public space near the Ross House. Head House Conservancy President Bernice T. Hamel praised Toll House for that public plaza. “It is not out of synch with Head House Square,” she said.
It was suggested that the developer re-consider the silvery metal railings before talking with the historic commission, since that is not a material seen much around Society Hill.
Paul Boni asked if the building couldn't be shorter. By the rule of thumb, five stories would normally be around 50 feet tall, he said after the meeting. The developer's team said some of the height was needed in the elevator tower for repair access. The 10-foot ceilings are designed as an enticement to buyers.
Toll, a publicly traded company, did not need financing to purchase the property, which it bought last year.
Emmons said Toll hopes to get zoning relief, under the current code, in August, finish the construction documents in December, start construction in 2013, and finish about 18 months later.
Toll is meeting now with the Philadelphia Water Department. Emmons said he thinks a green roof will be needed to meet their run-off requirements, and the plans he showed had a green roof.
A decision on whether to seek LEED certification has not been made, nor has a name for the project been chosen, Emmons said.
The units are expected to sell for about $500 per square foot, or roughly between $450,000 and $500,000 for a one-bedroom unit, including a parking place. Fifty-five percent of the units will have two bedrooms, 45 percent one bedroom.