On Wednesday, the Zoning Board of Adjustment will consider granting two variances and one special exception to Brandywine Realty Trust for a proposed 29-story residential tower on an empty lot at 20th and Market streets. The 351-foot tower would contain 278 residential units with retail space on the ground floor, and a 223-space parking garage would sit at the back of the property, facing Commerce Street.
The developers need two variances, for the width of the side yard on 20th Street and for a curb cut providing access into the parking garage. They need a special exception for above-ground parking in the CMX-5 zoning district. A use that requires a special exception is considered a by-right use that needs an extra level of review. In order to prevent its granting, the burden is on objectors to prove that the use would be detrimental to the neighborhood beyond what might normally be expected from such a use. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning exceptions at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.
The architects of the project made several tweaks to the design in response to comments from the Civic Design Review Committee, including adding more “translucent glass” on the first and second levels of the Market Street facade and putting a small window display at the corner of 20th and Commerce streets, which CDR Committee members feared could become a dead space if only the parking garage was placed there.
The CDR Committee had also asked the developers to explain exactly how much more it would cost to put the parking garage underground than above-ground, which the developers did not do at the Planning meeting.
Logan Square resident Ed Panek said that while his group, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, generally are “not fans of aboveground parking garages,” he feels that in this case, below-ground parking is not feasible, and instead wants to encourage the developers to design the parking amenity so that it does not look like a parking amenity. He said the group is also working with the developer toward an agreement that would govern scheduling of deliveries and trash removal to keep the traffic situation on Commerce Street under control.
The zoning board will consider the case Wednesday, August 21st, at 2 p.m., on the 18th floor of the City of Philadelphia building, at 1515 Arch Street. PlanPhilly will have an update after the hearing.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.