Comcast executives were in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday seeking approval for a proposed merger with Time Warner Cable that would make the country’s biggest cable provider even bigger.
Meanwhile, representatives of developer Liberty Property Trust and the architectural firm of Foster + Partners were at the Civic Design Review Committee in Philadelphia, describing the details of the proposed Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, which will edge out the first Comcast tower as the tallest building in Philadelphia.
The CDR Committee had generally positive comments. Some committee members had concerns about the number of security bollards around the base of the building, which will be built at 18th and Arch streets in Center City. John Gattuso of Liberty Property Trust said that the bollards are a necessary protection against the threats—he wouldn’t go into specifics— that accompany buildings of the proposed scale. Other committee members encouraged the developer to integrate the project with the city’s nascent bikeshare program. Gattuso said they will look into it.
While the committee doesn’t formally vote to approve or disapprove projects, it did vote that the developers did not need to present any more material. With Civic Design Review finished, the regulatory process for the tower is now finished, less than three months from the day the project was announced.
City Council already adjusted the zoning for the property, permitted encroachments on the public right of way, and authorized the extension of an underground concourse. The Planning Commission previously approved the proposal as well. The $1.2 billion project will be bolstered by $40 million in state and city grants for the concourse extension.
All that’s left is to pull the permits, and the developers say they expect to begin construction this summer.
After the meeting, John Gattuso of Liberty Property Trust reflected on the difference between the proposal for the first Comcast tower and the second one.
“I think there was a lot more insecurity in the city as a whole—if you think of the city as a place, almost as a personality—I think people were very nervous about where the city was headed in 2003,” Gattuso said. “And today, we jump forward, we have a city that’s growing in population. We have a city that has I think demonstrated its resilience. And we have a city that’s finally looking at itself saying, ‘You know what? We’re OK taking new big buildings, high-rise buildings.’ … And so I think what you’re seeing in the difference between then and now is the paradigm has shifted. You’re seeing an old Philadelphia mentality that’s started to maybe disappear and a new sense that, yes, there’s certainly still challenges—I don’t mean to suggest that—but the city’s saying, ‘You know what? A: we deserve excellence. And B: we’re capable of producing excellence. And I think people get that now.”
Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper, Business Journal, and Metropolis.