Historical Commission breezes through final 2014 meeting

As an early Christmas present to everyone involved, the Philadelphia Historical Commission held an impressively brief (15 minutes!) December meeting on Friday. That's not to suggest that the two cases under discussion — private residences in the Rittenhouse-Fitler historic district — were given pro forma attention.

What looked to be a full Commission offered careful discussion to each project, both of which had been revised after appearing before the Commission's Architectural Committee and both of which were seeking final approval.

The first proposal concerned a third story addition and deck. The applicants presented an updated mockup that reflected the Committee's recommendations to lower the addition by 15 inches, and Committee Chair Dominique Hawkins affirmed that she thought the proposal should now receive the go-ahead. The Commission unanimously granted it final approval.

The second project involved the installation of fences around a corner mansion that has long been dilapidated and is now under renovation. Designed to connect to a future elevator, the metal railings are intended to ease handicap accessibility. Commissioners raised some question about approvals from Licenses & Inspection and the Streets Department, and were assured that they were aware of the project with Streets deeming it legal and L&I still needing to review it. As had the Architectural Committee before them, the Commission seemed uncomfortable with the vagueness of the proposal. A motion to deny the project as it stands now, with staff to further review a new and more detailed design, was unanimously approved.

About the author

JoAnn Greco, writer

JoAnn Greco writes about parks and recreation, preservation, public space, and architecture for PlanPhilly. Her articles on design, cities, and the built environment have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Washington Post, Canada's Globe and Mail, National Parks, Metropolis, Interiors, Art & Antiques,, Planning, Next American City, Urban Land, and Hospitality Design. In addition, she has written for dozens of other consumer, custom, and trade outlets, from Brides to The Wall Street Journal, from AARP to Wine Enthusiast. She also owns and edits, an online magazine dedicated to urban destinations.

JoAnn was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Philadelphia in 1991. She has lived in Rittenhouse Square, Old City, and now owns a home in Bella Vista.

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