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Developer Agrees To Reconsider Plans For Big Building in Historic Old City Location

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A controversial plan for a ten-story apartment building in Old City, not far from the Betsy Ross House, has been tabled, at least for the moment.

arch st plan mtg
(The architectural committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission meeting on June 23, 2015. Photo by Mike Dunn)


Plans for the apartment building on the 200 block of Arch Street were due to be voted on by the architectural committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.   But Old City residents showed up to voice their opposition.

"It won't work in the context of Old City," said a neighbor and community activist, Janet Kalter.  "It's too massive.  It's just entirely too massive."

Richard Thom, an architect representing some of the residents who oppose the plan, agreed.

"The project is way too out of scale against the early 19th-century building along Arch Street.  It is completely out of character," he said.

So, in the face of that opposition, the developer -- PMC Property Group -- withdrew the application for the moment, pending talks with the residents.

"We are committed to meeting with all the prior appellants in the litigation in the next couple of weeks, to listen to their concerns, to review the project and make adjustments that we all can mutually agree are appropriate for the project," said Jonathan Stavin, an executive vice president with PMC.

Stavin was referring to a lawsuit  filed in 2009 by several Old City residents over an earlier proposal for that site.  That project never went forward, though permits were issued -- permits that PMC says still apply.

PMC proposes a ten-story apartment building with some first-floor retail and two levels of parking underground.   The site is currently a parking lot.

Stavin expects the withdrawal to cause no more than a 30-day delay in PMC's effort to gain city approval.

The staff of the Historical Commission, in its formal recommendation to the committee, also said the proposed building was too massive for the site.   And both the staff and residents particularly voiced concerns about the effect of the project on the adjacent cobblestone road known as "Little Boys Court" or "Little Boys Way."

"(The proposal's) solid massing along Little Boys Way leads you to believe that it's going to have permanent shadow effects in that street," said Thom, the architect, "permanently put it in shadow, destroying the scale and character of that tiny, historic street.  It is believed to be the oldest cobblestone street in the city."

The site is on the south side of the 200 block of Arch Street, across the street from, and slightly east of, the Betsy Ross House.

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