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Old 07-25-2013, 05:12 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,632 posts, read 12,789,064 times
Reputation: 15763

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It was announced at a meeting yesterday, July 24th, that developers want to construct a modernist concrete, steel and glass building on the 4200 block of Baltimore Avenue, overlooking Clark Park. The structure proposed is a 10 story, 163 unit apartment building that will offer both rental apartments and condominium privately owned units.

The developer of this project is Clarkmore Group, LLC. Presently the lot is zoned for residential homes that could be no taller than four stories. Clarkmore is hoping for community support to help get the zoning laws changed for this project.

The neighborhood is called Spruce Hill and it is several blocks west of the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The neighborhood is mostly residential with large Victorian semi-detached townhouses (locally called "Twins") that mostly date from the 1870's, 1880's, and 1890's predominating, but there are also single mansions and rowhouses as well. Most of Spruce Hill is actually a registered historic district known as the "West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb."

Many of the local residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the height and mass of the building that is so dramatically out of proportion with everything else in the neighborhood, the shadows the structure will cast on homes along Baltimore Avenue and Clark Park, the aesthetics which a few called "ugly" and "revolting," the fate of a few century old trees on the property, the fact the building ignores the architectural heritage and character of the neighborhood, and so on.

Here is the proposed building - "4224 Baltimore":



To get an idea of what the neighborhood looks like ...

These are the houses directly across the street on the 4200 block of Baltimore Avenue:



--------------

... and around the corner on 42nd Street:



----------------

Also directly across the street from the proposed "4224 Baltimore Avenue" building is the popular original Green Line Cafe. On the upper right hand side of the photo you can see the actual empty lot the 10 story building will be built upon:

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Old 07-25-2013, 07:27 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
2,377 posts, read 2,695,391 times
Reputation: 1492
Here?

https://www.google.com/maps?q=4224+B...157.48,,0,5.26
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Old 07-25-2013, 07:44 PM
 
Location: Center City Philadelphia
39 posts, read 65,942 times
Reputation: 31
I think the developer needs to work on the aesthetics of the building, for sure (especially the base).

However, West Philly surely needs more apartments. This is the perfect place -- right along a trolley line, and I love that the development doesn't include parking.

I hope the neighbors don't protest so much that this ends up being a handful of townhouses with parking and no retail. It would definitely be a loss of a huge opportunity for the area.
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:12 PM
 
Location: West Cedar Park, Philadelphia
1,225 posts, read 2,275,936 times
Reputation: 686
Yeah I agree with bridge.

With all due respect but you live in the fifth largest city in the country with a growing population. If you didn't want tall buildings built next to you then you should have lived in Chester County. It's also not like this is some random lot on a quiet street of twins. It's on an arterial road with light rail running down the middle, on a huge vacant lot next to a health center and across from a park. That lot needs to be filled in, and this is a great spot for some TOD in our neighborhood. Plus it puts more people on Baltimore Ave which means increased foot traffic that should help businesses on the Avenue, especially if this is marketed towards commuters to UPenn/Drexel/CHoP and Center City.

What I don't want are a row of crappy townhouses with blind first floor garages or something (GradHo specials), or some terrible faux-Victorian attempt at matching the "neighborhood's character".
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:52 PM
 
Location: back in Philadelphia!
3,260 posts, read 4,877,400 times
Reputation: 2051
^agreed!
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Old 07-25-2013, 09:26 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,632 posts, read 12,789,064 times
Reputation: 15763
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marius Pontmercy View Post
Yeah I agree with bridge.

With all due respect but you live in the fifth largest city in the country with a growing population. If you didn't want tall buildings built next to you then you should have lived in Chester County. It's also not like this is some random lot on a quiet street of twins. It's on an arterial road with light rail running down the middle, on a huge vacant lot next to a health center and across from a park. That lot needs to be filled in, and this is a great spot for some TOD in our neighborhood. Plus it puts more people on Baltimore Ave which means increased foot traffic that should help businesses on the Avenue, especially if this is marketed towards commuters to UPenn/Drexel/CHoP and Center City.

What I don't want are a row of crappy townhouses with blind first floor garages or something (GradHo specials), or some terrible faux-Victorian attempt at matching the "neighborhood's character".
I think, from attending the meeting, that most of the residents were not asking for townhouses or "terrible faux-Victorian" homes. The developer paid a lot of money for that piece of real estate, and it is understood that only an apartment building with some retail space could offer a profitable return. The criticism seemed based on just how high or massive the thing would be that might make it out of scale for a largely residential neighborhood.

Modernist concrete/steel/glass buildings can be crappy too, you know.

A sleek and very modern 21st Century building, that is inspired and imaginative can use building materials, colors, shapes, and textures that acknowledge and reference the historic fabric of the neighborhood's architecture. It doesn't have to stick out like a sore thumb like a defiantly aggressive stack of boxes overshadowing - both literally and figuratively - everything else in the neighborhood.

In my opinion ... neighborhoods do have character. Especially the historic ones.

Part of the charm of famous neighborhoods like Boston's Beacon Hill, Washington's Georgetown, Brooklyn's Park Slope, Cleveland's Ohio City, Baltimore's Federal Hill are adherence to zoning codes that have preserved those historic residential neighborhoods ... and yes, these are in big urban cities.

Spruce Hill is a registered historic district. At present, the block is not zoned for a structure of that size or height. One member of the Spruce Hill Neighborhood Association named Mary pointed out that the developer is not asking for a 30% or 40% or even a 50% increase as a variance in the zoning law, but a 250% increase.

Others expressed skepticism that the finished edifice will look as attractive as the renderings. Even in the renderings there is a huge multi-story windowless concrete block with little squares indented in it as part of the design.

It is not unreasonable, since most residents of the neighborhood consider Clark Park the crown jewel of the neighborhood, that a building that will cast shadows for much of day over their beloved park is cause for concern.
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Old 07-25-2013, 09:36 PM
 
Location: Bella Vista
2,472 posts, read 3,486,213 times
Reputation: 2202
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
It was announced at a meeting yesterday, July 24th, that developers want to construct a modernist concrete, steel and glass building on the 4200 block of Baltimore Avenue, overlooking Clark Park. The structure proposed is a 10 story, 163 unit apartment building that will offer both rental apartments and condominium privately owned units.

The developer of this project is Clarkmore Group, LLC. Presently the lot is zoned for residential homes that could be no taller than four stories. Clarkmore is hoping for community support to help get the zoning laws changed for this project.

The neighborhood is called Spruce Hill and it is several blocks west of the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The neighborhood is mostly residential with large Victorian semi-detached townhouses (locally called "Twins") that mostly date from the 1870's, 1880's, and 1890's predominating, but there are also single mansions and rowhouses as well. Most of Spruce Hill is actually a registered historic district known as the "West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb."

Many of the local residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the height and mass of the building that is so dramatically out of proportion with everything else in the neighborhood, the shadows the structure will cast on homes along Baltimore Avenue and Clark Park, the aesthetics which a few called "ugly" and "revolting," the fate of a few century old trees on the property, the fact the building ignores the architectural heritage and character of the neighborhood, and so on.

Here is the proposed building - "4224 Baltimore":



To get an idea of what the neighborhood looks like ...

These are the houses directly across the street on the 4200 block of Baltimore Avenue:



--------------

... and around the corner on 42nd Street:



----------------

Also directly across the street from the proposed "4224 Baltimore Avenue" building is the popular original Green Line Cafe. On the upper right hand side of the photo you can see the actual empty lot the 10 story building will be built upon:
If you're trying to suggest this is too dense or that a large apartment building is out of place in this location then I'm sorry but you'll find no support here. Right next to two trolley lines on what is becoming a bustling commercial corridor, i love that a appropriately dense apartment building is going to be built, especially one with NO PARKING!

honestly I'm not too keen on the design, but it sure beats what is there currently. hopefully neighbors like yourself can push them to create a design that better compliments the historic neighborhood without imitating it. At the same time though I hope nimbys don't stop this from getting done.
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Old 07-25-2013, 09:43 PM
 
Location: Bella Vista
2,472 posts, read 3,486,213 times
Reputation: 2202
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
It is not unreasonable, since most residents of the neighborhood consider Clark Park the crown jewel of the neighborhood, that a building that will cast shadows for much of day over their beloved park is cause for concern.
Good point. I mean look at how terribly rittenhouse sq suffers from all the tall buildings around it... oh wait.

If you are fighting for better aesthetics I'll support you, but smaller size? Why would you want that? Think of all the invigorating energy all those new residents will bring to the neighborhood, all the business it will bring to baltimore ave. this is a huge positive for the neighborhood.
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Old 07-25-2013, 10:06 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,632 posts, read 12,789,064 times
Reputation: 15763
Quote:
Originally Posted by phillies2011 View Post
If you're trying to suggest this is too dense or that a large apartment building is out of place in this location then I'm sorry but you'll find no support here. Right next to two trolley lines on what is becoming a bustling commercial corridor, i love that a appropriately dense apartment building is going to be built, especially one with NO PARKING!
You are mistaken.

The developer wants to create about 50 parking spaces on the other side of the building, not shown in this rendering.
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Old 07-26-2013, 04:19 AM
 
Location: Midwest
1,283 posts, read 1,881,190 times
Reputation: 970
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
Others expressed skepticism that the finished edifice will look as attractive as the renderings. Even in the renderings there is a huge multi-story windowless concrete block with little squares indented in it as part of the design.
I'm often confused by attempts to fight density in Philadelphia. Especially as there is a lot of whole underutilized land along rail lines both in neighborhoods in in Center City. Such as vacant lots and parking lots.

And the shade argument I don't understand either - I can't think of a time I've been walking down the street in Philadephia, and said "Boy, this place is terrible, too much shade!" Especially with the summers we have here. We plant street trees for their wonderful shade, but won't let developers build buildings because of their terrible shade.

But, like a lot of new buildings, this one sure is ugly. Not over the top ugly. Just modern dull schlock. And while not every building can or should be the greatest building, it would be nice to see some minimum standards at least as far as urbanism is concerned. And right across from Clark Park is a prime example of a place where high standards should be demanded. The building probably looks the best it's going to look right now, in rendered form. And at its best, it still presents a blank wall towards most of Baltimore Avenue. And the blank wall is fronted by a pointless patch of grass that will just wind up being something the custodial staff has to clean, as it doesn't serve as any kind of part of the entryway. Just another suburbanish grass patch in front of a building attempting to cover up the fact that there's an ugly blank wall on Baltimore Avenue - but in reality, just drawing more attention to it. It would be disappointing, except it's to be expected.
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