A weekly series of foul-mouthed investigations into empty lots, dead-ass proposals and other design phenomena in Philadelphia. Find more stories like this at Philaphilia.blogspot.com.
210 South 25th Street
This poor empty lot. Its never even had a real building on it. A sad, flat, decrepit piece of shit decade after decade. Now that this little triangle of land finally has the chance to be filled, a whole slew of NIMBYs have swooped down to try and stop it for mind-numbingly silly reasons.
This lot, like many along a river, was more useful when it was water than when it was land. This plot started its development life as a steep bank of the Schuylkill River between two unnamed streams. Two piers that ran along the site of this lot were present by 1810. The northernmost pier became known as Locust Street Wharf by the 1830s and had a long life as Joseph Page's riverfront coal yard. In the second half of the 19th Century, it, like many other piers along the Schuylkill, imported marble used for the embellishment of the mansions being built a few blocks to the northeast. The southern pier on the site of the current empty lot spent most of its life as a distribution point for animal-related goods.
In 1883, the Schuylkill River East Side Railroad Company was incorporated in order to build a railroad extension that would run alongside the river, connecting two lines and creating a main line to Chicago. To do this, they had to buy up most of the piers and extend the land out with made earth. The new railroad tracks, will are still in use today, opened on December 7, 1886 under a lease with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, who used the tracks to lead up to their station at 24th and Chestnut. B & O used the site of the current surface parking lot as... a surface parking lot (for trains). It became the B & O freight yard for the next 7 decades. The ends of the old piers still stuck out a little bit into the river, but were removed by 1921.
Aerial Photo from 1930 showing the B & O Freight Yard taking up the empty lot. Image from the Free Library of Philadelphia via philageohistory.org.
Once the B & O stopped running trains through this area in 1958, the old freight yard started to become used by the subsequent freight companies that leased the Schuylkill River East Side Railroad, but only sparingly. Over time, the spot got overgrown and was used as an unofficial parking lot for maintenance workers on the line. By the early 1990s, very little of the old train tracks in this location remained.
Aerial photo from 1992. Image from Google.
In 1998, Super-developer Carl Dranoff started his conversion of the old National Publishing Company Building into his fancy-ass loft apartment project, Locust on the Park. As part of the plan, he purchased the pile of dirt for $4.59 million and made it into a surface parking lot for residents, bringing it the appearance it still has today, 15 years later.
Flash forward to the present. The Schuylkill Trail has become one of the most kick-ass public spaces in the city. A push has come among developers to take advantage of the situation and build as much shit as possible on all the remaining spaces along the river. Dranoff, who created this surface parking lot, is now ready to destroy it. His proposal? A 21-story apartment building with 167 residents units and 1,000 square feet of retail space.
This is technically not a rendering, but a massing study. Cecil Baker's firm will be working on the final design.
What a great idea! A monument of residential density placed to the southern end of the plot in order not to fuck over the views of the residents of Locust on the Park. A development that will only increase the value of the area and offer yet another neighborhood amenity with its retail space. What could go wrong?
NIMBYs, that's what. On August 13th, NIMBYs from the surrounding community descended on a Center City Residents' Association meeting that had been advertised all around the neighborhood with flyers saying "Stop the Dranoff Tower!" The complaints? "Wah Wah It's too tall!" "Wah Wah not enough parking!" "Wah Wah my view is ruined!" And the classic NIMBY favorite: "Muh neighborhood character!" One resident even suggested that this private plot of land should become part of the Schuylkill River Park, which is rigoddamndiculous. Inga Saffron, Inquirer architecture critic and Filter Square resident, even had the gumption to speculate that her tomato plants in the exclusive "community" garden to the south of this property would get fried by reflections off the proposed building's glass facade. You can't make this shit up. [Editor's note: GroJLart's characterization wasn't entirely accurate: Saffron merely mentions that another neighbor is worried about the reflective surface's impact on the garden, and that she, too, grows tomatoes there. She tells us, "My column looked favorably on the idea of a new tower on the parking lot, but warns of potential design challenges that could harm the popular Schuylkill River park."]
The best part about the NIMBY opposition to this project is that the proposal is by-right, meaning that Dranoff could tell all these neighbors to fuck right off and build this motherfucker without their bullshit. He already has conditional zoning approval but still has to go through a Civic Design Review process, but that shouldn't be able to stop it. Some residents noted in the meeting that the zoning of the parcel should be changed. Funny how NIMBYs love to use the zoning code against developers when they need a variance, but when a by-right project comes along, they suddenly hate the zoning code and want it re-worked.
Good luck Carl, and Lucifer Bless You for turning a space that's never even had a building on it into a high-density luxury development. The only problem I have with it is the name. One Riverside? I hate when buildings are named after their address and I hate when buildings create a fake street in order to get the number one as its address number. You should call it the Fofsan Building, that is to say, the Fuck Off Fitler Square Asshole NIMBYS Building. You're welcome.
It's hard to tell from this photo, but this document smells like delicious NIMBY tears. Logon Square?
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