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Committee To Review Proposal For Apartment Building In Heart Of Old City

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission today will weigh in on a developer's plans for a ten-story apartment building in Old City -- on the same block as the Betsy Ross House.

PMC Property Group wants to turn a parking lot at 218 Arch Street in Old City into a ten-story apartment building with some first-floor retail and two levels of parking underground. Jonathan Farnham, executive director of the Historical Commission, says the project's size poses concern:

"The (staff) recommendation is that the proposed building would be incompatible with the historic district in height, massing and scale. Its a ten-story in an area of Old City that is primarily comprised of three-, four-, five- or six-story buildings. So it would loom over several historic buildings and would be within a half-block of Christ Church, one of the most important buildings in Old City and in the city."

The Commission's architectural committee will debate the idea today, and then forward its recommendation to the full commission for a vote on July 10th.

The parking lot is on the south side of the 200 block of Arch Street, across the street from, and slightly east of the Betsy Ross House. The lot is adjacent to a cobblestone alley known as "Little Boys Court."

old city apartment map
Map by architect Stephen Varenhorst (Photo provided by Phila. Historical Commission)

Commission staffers, in their opinion to the committee, also voice concern about the future of that alley if the project moves forward. Farnham says the Historical Commission staff does not believe the project should necessarily be scrapped, but scaled back:

"Its an opinion... a way to start a conversation with the developer perhaps to modify the design to make it more compatible with the (historic) district."

Neither PMC Property group nor the architect, Stephen Varenhorst, responded to KYW Newsradio's calls for comment.

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