City panel: Plan for Market St. tower too bland

An artist's rendering of the proposed Mellon Independence Center Tower by Stantec Architecture, courtesy of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
An artist's rendering of the proposed Mellon Independence Center Tower by Stantec Architecture, courtesy of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
Posted: February 27, 2014

It seems the developers of a proposed 35-story tower for Market Street East were too successful in their attempt to keep the building unobtrusive.

While the largely residential structure proposed for the site of the historic Lit Bros. store was tentatively approved Tuesday by the Philadelphia Historical Commission's architectural committee, the panel requested a redesign of the $102 million project.

Committee members agreed with a critique by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia that the design is "inappropriately bland" for a structure that would share the block with such an architectural standout as Lit Bros.

The criticism elicited a bemused shrug from John J. Connors, president of Brickstone Reality Corp., owner of the property, Mellon Independence Center.

"We thought that this is what they would want," he said of the inconspicuous design. "Looks like we guessed wrong."

The building was designed to detract as little as possible from the Lit Bros. facade along Market Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets. It would be placed on the rear center of the block, set back 180 feet from Market and 150 feet each from Seventh and Eighth.

Committee members praised the location, noting that to the casual viewer, the building would appear not to be even sharing the same block as the Lit building. They were less taken with the unremarkable design, which they said did not live up to the standards set by the Lit building.

Committee member John Cluver suggested that Brickstone come back with something "more bold." Connors' team signaled it would.

The project represents an energetic addition to Market Street east of City Hall, which has been for decades an anemic mirror of the robust activity west of Broad Street.

The proposal calls for a mixed-use tower that would house 342 residential units, five floors of office space, and a ground floor that includes retail. While the building would have a "ceremonial" entrance on Market, the developers expect most traffic from entrances on Seventh and Eighth.

The design would preserve the existing facades that now bound the property.

The full commission is set to review the plans March 14.


chepp@phillynews.com

215-854-2594

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