Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Columbus Blvd. complex plan gets more hidden parking

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A rendering of the proposed Renaissance Plaza residential/retail complex at 400 N. Columbus Boulevard from the architectural firm Alesker & Dundon.
A rendering of the proposed Renaissance Plaza residential/retail complex at 400 N. Columbus Boulevard from the architectural firm Alesker & Dundon. Alesker & Dundon

An additional 96 parking spaces have been added to the proposed Renaissance Plaza residential/retail complex at 400 N. Columbus Boulevard, bringing the total to nearly 600 spaces.

None of the parking, originally planned or more recently added, will be visible from the street. That detail was proffered by William Alesker and David Farabaugh of the architecture firm Alesker & Dundon and project attorney Hercules Grigos during a recent Central Delaware Advocacy Group meeting.

Most of the parking is wrapped in retail space. The new spaces are partially below grade. FEMA requires the retail/residential portions of the building to be raised above the floodplain, Alesker explained. That created six feet of wasted space. Five more feet of digging made room for the 96 additional spaces.

Renaissance Plaza plans call for about 1,360 rental apartments, 72,000 square feet of retail space and 19,000 square feet of office space.

The team representing developer Waterfront Renaissance Associates - an affiliate of Carl Marks Real Estate - said code requires about one parking space for every three residential units. The additional spaces are for future shoppers, many of whom, the team said, will want to drive to the area.

CDAG Chairman and Northern Liberties Neighbors' President Matt Ruben joked that the development hit a parking sweet spot: “Just little enough parking to make some of the residents around there nervous. And just enough parking to [tick] off some of the urbanists.”

It's parking that requires Renaissance Plaza to seek a zoning special exception. The proposal was made under the old Central Delaware Overlay, which required an exception for above-grade parking, Grigos said. The current CDO does not require an exception, so long as the parking is completely wrapped, as in this proposal. The team will use the fact that the project meets the requirements of the current zoning overlay in an attempt to convince the Zoning Board of Adjustment to grant the exception at a July 23 hearing. The hearing was required without the additional parking, but the team came back to CDAG to discuss the parking change.

CDAG had already supported the project, and voted to continue that support. It did ask that the developer put in writing a previously made and recently repeated verbal commitment to include the planned public open space and other landscaping in the first phase of development.

Development proposals have been floated for this site for a long time. Remember the World Trade Center project? There's no set start of construction for this project, but the team told John Scorsone, who represents River's Edge, that funding is now being sought.

PlanPhilly.com  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Wyncote Foundation.

Kellie Patrick Gates PLANPHILLY
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