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What's Happening in:  Passyunk Square 

Broad Street Armory not long for this world

The architect for the proposed development at the old Broad Street Armory told a neighbors meeting Tuesday night that the developer plans to tear down the crumbling building and rebuild a modern structure with about 50 apartments and a surface parking lot.

This building will replace the Armory at 1221 S. Broad St.

Vince Mancini of Landmark Achitectural Design told us yesterday that the building was in such terrible shape that salvaging it wasn’t feasible.  ”We really struggled with that decision,” Mancini said. “We have a design with the armory included but it’s in very sad shape.” The developer is Michael Carosella, owner of C&R Building Supply on Washington Avenue.

The plans include 5o apartments in a new, modern building that would rise six floors to 79 feet. The lot behind the 80,000 square foot, L-shaped building would include space for 53 parking spots in a landscaped lot that will be accessed through the current curb cut on Broad Street. That’s where the arched garage is now.

Time’s up. The lot entrance is the arch to the left. Pic from Hidden City

Peter Zutter of the South Broad Street Neighbors Association said that the proposal was well-received. “All in all there was no real opposition,” Zutter told us in an email. “And in the 25 or so years I’ve been doing this, I have never seen a meeting with this many people (about 60) and this large a project go this smoothly.”

“It’s about time one of them went well!” Mancini joked.

Apartments would all be 2-bedroom rentals, from 900 to 1,300 square feet and are preliminarily priced from $1,500 to $2,900 a month, said one neighbor who asked to go by Aaron B.

Some attendees questioned why the building, which will also have indoor bike parking, would need so much parking since it is literally on top of the Broad Street subway.

The building also won’t have any commercial space on the ground floor.

“We didn’t want to compete or take business from existing establishments that are already struggling” Mancini said, noting the proximity to Passyunk Avenue. He also said they wanted control of the design of the ground floor, which they wouldn’t necessarily have with a commercial tenant. The building will be set back from the property line by up to 25 feet to create fenced, lanscaped courtyard along Broad Street.

So, what do you think?

Click the links below to see the floor plans.

S. Broad Street A-2.1

S. Broad Street A-2.1


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13 Responses to Broad Street Armory not long for this world

  1. PJ February 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I’m glad to see that the developer is including parking. Between this and the planned development at Annunciation BVM, parking pressures in the neighborhood are going to increase.

    However, it’s unfortunate that the developer has determined that saving the building “wasn’t feasible.” When are we going to stop replacing our historic structures with these architectural monstrosities?

    Also, I wonder how the height of the planned structure (79 feet) compares with the current Armory? Does anyone know? Thanks.

  2. Dan P. February 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    You asked. I’ll answer.
    Not a big fan of a giant iron fence and gate no matter what’s behind it. The feeling it conveys to the pedestrian is virtually no different than the feeling you get walking past the structure that’s there now. Setback with landscaped courtyard would be fine if there were no such fence, otherwise you’re just conveying the message of “look what we have in here that you can’t touch.” Better to have a nice, brightly lit, glass-enclosed lobby with a concierge desk that’s right up to the property line on the sidewalk.

    Disagree with the no retail thing. It’s South Broad Street! If we’re ever going to experience any kind of renewal on that stretch our new construction needs to start having some life to it… the kind of life that would come from having a nice, showroom type establishment (not a restaurant… I understand the hesitation there) with customers coming in and out. To suggest that it would compete with other properties that are struggling ignores the fact that they are possibly struggling precisely because there’s not a nice sized anchor tenant type store on that spot but rather a giant hulking, abandoned (though cool looking) building. Refusing the retail is simply a case of a developer who doesn’t want to put the work in to attract a retail, consumer-goods establishment but would just rather put up 50 cookie-cutter apartments and treat the building like an ATM.

    As I understand it, once this project gets going through the RCO process with SBSNA and PSCA and Newbold, its size and scope also makes it subject to the Civic Design Review Process. ( I hope that some folks with far more design expertise than I have participate in that process. The building that is there now has stood for 114 years. We need to make sure whatever takes its place for the next 100 years is something we want to be staring at for the rest of our lives.

    And yes… way too high a parking to unit ratio. For a project that technically doesn’t need to provide any parking, to go right to 1:1 without even considering .75:1 or better yet .5:1 parking to unit ratio is unconscionable. A person living in that building could roll out of bed onto the Broad Street subway, be in Center City in 2 minutes, 30th Street station in another 5 and on an Amtrak train to anywhere from D.C. to Boston in another 3 minutes. Cut out half the parking, put in about 20-25 more units to support more retail, offer 10-12 spaces for ZipCar or PhillyCarShare (perhaps even with a membership that comes with leasing the apartment) and market the hell out of this place to people as a way to have freedom from the tyranny of high gas prices, high insurance premiums, and repair and maintenance costs. I’d have ads in Penn Station in New York that say “6:30am Wake Up. 7:19am walk out front door. 7:21am Broad Street Subway to City Hall. 7:27am Market Frankford El to 30th Street Station. 7:35am Amtrak Acela to Penn Station. 8:44am walk to office in Mid-town. 9am at desk. Rent: 1/5 of what you’re paying in Queens and comes with a much better baseball team.” Place would be leased out in a week.

    • Me February 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

      That Dan P is a smart dude. I like him for mayor. And the parking issue is a no-brainer, there’s no way you need 50 spaces for this place.

  3. JR February 22, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Do those rent prices seem excessive to anyone else, or am I just spoiled?

  4. Rich B February 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    What the hell? No retail? None at all? A fenced-in yard that no one will use? This contributes nothing to the street-scape, and is actually hostile to it. This is a major street. It desperately needs successful commercial space. Every city needs that on its major corridors, especially so close to transit. This should be a vibrant hub of mixed use, not a desolate, empty space.

    And don’t get me started on parking. If this were nowhere near transit, then I’d say go for parking, make that a selling point. Fine. But on top of a subway station?! The city should not allow this. Encouraging people to live AT a subway station and still own cars is a sure-fire way to bankrupt SEPTA and ruin transit for everyone.

  5. biggredd February 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Is there any reason to believe this developer that the present building can’t be re-used? His track record speaks loudy that demo is in his blood. Why can’t specfics that prevent renovation be mentioned instead of such big general statements.
    Old doesn’t always equal good [or easy], but once the old is gone, its gone for good. Can anyone say they think the suggested apartment building will be here in a 100 years?
    My hope is that someplace in the permitting process/game the powers that be will put some pressure on him to re-consider this sad decision

    • Vince Mancini, AIA February 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      I would like to filter in some information regarding some of the decisions made around this development.
      Retail is not a good idea on the ground floor of this new proposed building for a few reasons; First, If you look at the plan, there is only about 4000 s.f of ground floor to this building. Second and the most important fact is that a buildings ground floor is one of the most important parts of a building as it is the most intimate., meaning, its the only part that is in direct contact with the pedestrian and as such, each building should put on its best face possible. If you try to create a beautiful building and want it appreciated at the ground floor, then don’t depend on retail stores or anything like it because for the most part you will be very disappointed. Vacancies, bad signage, dirty windows, bad taste , and the list goes on and on. How would you someone to tell you to put a store on the ground floor of your beautiful home?

      This ground floor is envisioned with a beautiful and classy entrance lobby, a well maintained front garden, water features and a multipurpose space for use for the neighborhood groups. So what’s wrong with that ? There should be more of those kind of ground floor areas as you walk down broad street, or do you like to be bombarded with a barrage of retail materialist nonsense.

      Also there is a small fence indicated but that does not have to happen, Its an early preliminary thought. however remember this, you do not have a entitlement to enter onto everyone else’s property, sit and leave your litter , empty coffee cups and dog poo. Anyway, even if you are not sitting within the courtyard, you could enjoy the beautify greenery with your sight, smell the wonderful aroma of the Roses with your sense of smell, Listen to the waterfall with your sense of hearing. How is that while walking down Broad Street. , Do we have to let you touch everything ?

      Also allot of thought went into the decision to remove the existing structure. Its the right call. If you know anything about the structure you would probably agree. Just because its old does not mean we should save it and prop it up on crutches.
      As far as the parking, it is possible to landscape some of the parking area and reduce the amount of cars, however its too early to tell.

      As I read some of the posts, I cannot help but remember what my dad said; You will never make everyone happy. However I would like to express that, counter to what a few may think, We as professionals try to create the best possible buildings given all of the considerations, opinions, tastes, political forces, constraints, …on and on. Believe it of not there are many projects which would be purer if there were less opinions. All I can assure you is that this developer as some others, have an extreme amount of pride in their work and in what they want to create. I for one am very happy that this project will be one of them.
      Thanks. – Vince

      • Dan P. February 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

        Reasonable people can disagree on the retail idea. I still think any building owner who is willing to put in the work can find a retail solution for that space that is an amenity for the people in the building and an addition for the people in the neighborhood. From a pedestrian perspective, which is how I spend most of my time, I’d much rather have the building come right up to the sidewalk with – if not retail – a brightly lit, we’ll designed and well decorated, glass-enclosed lobby. That’s much preferred to what will almost certainly become a dead zone (sorry… a dead zone with a fountain). Spaces need people or else they are just dead spaces. We learned that with Independence Mall and Dilworth Plaza (and to some extent Love Park until the skateboarders rescued it). So better to have the building cover that area than some open area that no one in the building will use and no one who doesn’t live in the building will be allowed to use. (Also, it seems a little disingenuous to have a meeting at which it is suggested that people will be able to have input into the final design and then refuse to consider 99% of the suggestions. Why have the meeting at all?)

  6. BM February 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Mr. Mancini

    I’ll give you the fence and the retail based on your response. Certainly the ground floor in your rendering looks intimate and inviting. I agree that a healthy streetscape requires a mix of uses and structures at ground floor.

    But in regards to the demolition of the existing building: I believe neighbors are curious specifically what led to this decision that it is not feasible to existing structure? Did a structural engineer survey the building? Did a contractor price the repairs? Is the layout not conducive to apts? From the casual appearance at the street, it makes little sense to demolish this building for the purpose of constructing new apts.

    Most concerning for me though is the 1:1 parking… not only is this something neighbors would like to minimize as part of a dense, vibrant neighborhood with great access to mass transportation, but I can’t imagine the developer will see the return here vs another amenity or two?

    Dan for Mayor.

    Sure you won’t please everybody all of the time but I’d like to believe a majority of neighbors will agree that less parking is desired.

    • AF February 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      Dan P. for mayor!!

  7. O Diddy February 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Not sure why there needs to be 1:1 parking considering that the site is zoned RSA-5 which requires 0 parking for multi-family building.

    • jh February 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      How will all this change current parking on S. Broad St.? Will parking permits then be required? Why are the apts. so expensive? Will dogs be permitted for renters? I would not jump and say that “there was no real opposition.” Aren’t there more detailed meetings planned?


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