During its first meeting of 2014, City Council began making preparations for the tallest building in Philadelphia, the proposed 59-story, 1,121-foot Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, unveiled last week. Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced a handful of Comcast-related bills on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke.
The bills would:
Rezone the property from CMX-4 to CMX-5, the least-restrictive commercial zoning classification,*
Adjust some regulations of the zoning code to allow Comcast’s project to be built by right,
Permit Comcast and development partner Liberty Property Trust to construct and maintain an extension of the Suburban Station transit concourse across 18th Street,
Allow encroachments in the public right-of-way, including benches, security bollards, and bike racks,*
And authorize the Department of Streets to raise portions of 18th Street and to raise and widen portions of Cuthbert Street between 18th and 19th.
Not a small task.
But because the property will be zoned CMX-5, a commercial classification with no height limit and liberal density standards, the tweaks to the zoning code are relatively few. One is a rather esoteric adjustment to the already esoteric Sky Plane Controls, which regulate building design based on how much sky is viewable by a pedestrian standing in the middle of the street.
Another increases the maximum bonus floor area ratio—the ratio between total square footage and square footage of the parcel of land—from 1,000% to 1,200% in Center City CMX-5 zoning districts.
Another adjustment changes the boundaries of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Area of the Center City Zoning Overlay in order to exempt the Comcast property from some height controls.
*Note: An earlier version of this article mentioned neither the bill upzoning the parcel from CMX-4 to CMX-5 nor the bill permitting encroachments in the public right-of-way.
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.