The Toll Bros. plan for a 16-story condo building on Philadelphia's Jewelers Row has hit a procedural snag that could delay the project by months while it is considered by the city design-advisory board.
Zoning review staffers erred in issuing Toll Bros. a zoning permit for the 80-unit project without requiring it to be considered by the city's Civic Design Review Committee, David Perri, commissioner of the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said Wednesday.
Projects exceeding certain size and other thresholds must go through the Civic Design Review process. Horsham-based Toll's 107,000-square-foot Jewelers Row project is covered by that requirement because it exceeds 100,000 square feet, Perri said in an email.
L&I has issued a conditional permit in place of the final one granted earlier this month, Perri said. "We expect that the CDR process will inform and influence the overall design of the project," he said.
The design-review panel's suggestions are nonbinding, so it is uncertain how much of an impact it can have on Toll's plan, which involves displacement of five Jewelers Row properties in the 700 block of Sansom Street. Toll has 150 days to begin the review process, which also requires the developer to meet with members of the community.
Once started, the process can take months, depending on how quickly community groups and the design-review board can get the project on their calendars, said Peter Kelsen, a land-use attorney with the law firm Blank Rome who is not involved in the case.
Toll Bros. lawyer Ronald Patterson said Wednesday that the company had anticipated going through design review before its original permit was granted, so it did not see being told to do so now as a hardship.
Michael Duff, a spokesman for the Toll unit planning the development, Toll Bros. City Living, had no comment.
Earlier Wednesday, City Living had released a statement saying that the tower would mesh with other buildings on the street, and that it would include ground-floor retail space for jewelers. "We are committed to delivering a residential building that is respectful of the history of Jewelers Row while rejuvenating it for the future," it said.
Opponents of the plan, who include historic preservationists and merchants operating in the buildings that would be displaced, said they were glad to learn of the zoning glitch, which they hoped would buy them time to fight the proposal.
"More time is always better than less," said Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. An online petition by the group opposing the plan has attracted more than 3,800 signatures.
Jeweler Maryanne Ritter said she was glad to hear of the setback, too, even if it was only temporary. "It gives us a little more space to figure out what our next step is," she said.