With two large projects from developer Bart Blatstein currently in the works in South Philly, many are questioning if these projects are suitable developments for the area. The massive “gateway” project for Broad and Washington now has updated plans, along with the recent developments for a waterfront commercial and residential complex.
Inga Saffron, The Inquirer‘s architecture critic, isn’t exactly fond of these two projects, stating that they are “throwbacks to an era when superblocks and surface parking were considered progress here.”
The updated plans for Broad and Washington include 1,000 apartments, 143,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, a total of 620 parking spots and 25,000 sq. ft. for multi-tenant office space. You can see more about the plans here. In her piece, Saffron calls the amount of residential units “a dorm for grown-ups.”
In the current incarnation, the lone tower sits on a 50-foot-high podium that spans the four-acre block. The structure can accommodate three large retailers, but its main purpose is to provide space for 650 cars. The plan calls for nearly 1,000 apartments.
Think about those numbers. Stuffing so many units into one tower suggests that Blatstein is creating a dorm for grown-ups. Yet people who live in such micro units tend to have low levels of car ownership. Considering the proximity of Center City, and the presence of the Broad Street Subway, this site should really be treated like a transit-oriented development.
This 16-acre plot of land, formerly proposed as a site for Foxwood Casinos, could become a mix of residential and commercial spaces. The complex includes 75,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, with Wawa and Aldi proposed to occupy two of the five or so commercial buildings. The plans for this location also includes 435 apartments, 45 buildings of townhouses and 45 pier townhouses. You can read more about the plans here.
The arrangement is so slapdash, and violates so many zoning rules, that some planners suspect the proposal was cooked up simply to help market the property.
Certainly, his proposal runs counter to the Delaware waterfront master plan and the city’s effort to stop the strip-malling of Columbus Boulevard. Blatstein’s plan “will result in an isolated enclave stranded in a sea of parking,” complained Shawn McCaney, an official at the William Penn Foundation. The site is just two blocks from the Pennsport neighborhood.
You can read more of her criticisms on these Blatstein projects here.
Now that Saffron has weighed in, what do you think of these development projects?