Weekly Update August 17-24

Jeff Rush, zoning and planning advocate and Queen Village champion, dies

Waterfront planners, casino protestors, and especially Queen Villagers lost one of their most consistent advocates last Tuesday.  Jeff Rush, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustments and former president of Queen Village Neighbors Association, died unexpectedly on August 14.   Rush, 67, lived in Queen Village for more than thirty years.  Neighbors, friends, and colleagues knew him as an exceedingly conscientious Philadelphian who fought in various capacities for neighborhood causes.  Rush was born and raised in South Philadelphia. He grew up near 7th and Oregon, where his parents owned a hardware store. He attended Central High School, and studied “business and law, economics and Philosophy” at Temple University.
Rush was active in the Queen Village group from the early 1980s on, and served most recently as president from 2007 through 2011. Rush worked hard to stop Foxwoods from locating a casino on the waterfront in South Philly.

Rene Goodwin, who served alongside Rush on CDAG, said that he was “an unfaltering soldier fighting for his community and for all communities in Philadelphia.”  Rush was appointed to the zoning board in 2010 by Mayor Nutter, who noted his “tremendous commitment to his city.”

See:  http://planphilly.com/jeff-rush-zoning-and-planning-advocate-and-queen-village-champion-dies

Planning Commission says developer should give public a benefit for height increase

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission withheld approval for a 180-foot tall residential tower on the site of Piers 34 and 35 South.  Developer Ensemble proposed building 209 rental units – which might one day be converted into condos – on new piles.  Louis Cicalese of Ensemble said it cost $900,000 to lease the riparian rights to drive piles into the riverbed to support the development.  He asserted it would not be economically feasible to build a shorter building extended further into the water because that would require more piles in deeper water.   Ensemble has altered the proposal since last month’s information-only session.  The new rendering indicates the portion of the structure that fronts on Columbus Boulevard lowered to just over 100 feet.
PCPC commissioners continued the discussion to the next meeting, and advised Ensemble to include suggestions by community groups and the commissioners worked into the plan. Chairman Alan Greenberger said it would not add much cost to reconfigure the lobby area so the prospective retail space was larger, and a few feet could be removed from the interior to enlarge the access outside path outside, a key public access point to a river view, he said.

1,458-unit, four-tower residential and retail complex proposed for former World Trade Center site

Developer Waterfront Renaissance Associates plans to build a 1,458-unit, four-tower residential and retail complex at the corner of Columbus Boulevard and Spring Garden Street – the spot where WRA had once planned to construct World Trade Square, a mixed-use development that would have included the Philadelphia World Trade Center.  The tallest two of the four towers of Renaissance Plaza would rise 426 feet, the other two 227 feet. The shorter towers would be more than double the 100-foot height limit established in the Central Delaware Waterfront Master Plan, the city’s long-range plan for the redevelopment of the Delaware River waterfront, between Oregon and Allegheny Avenues.
Tom Corcoran, president of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation – the quasi-city agency which oversaw the development of the Central Delaware Master Plan – said while some elements of the proposal sound very good, no development of this height and scale could meet the goals of the master plan.  Corcoran said the master plan specifically calls for low- and mid-rise buildings so that development spreads outward across the whole waterfront, rather than occurring in tall, isolated buildings.  He also said that economic studies that went into the formulation of the master plan showed the waterfront could absorb about 250 new units per year.  Old City Civic and Central Delaware Advocacy Group member Joe Schiavo echoed Corcoran’s statements.  Commission Chair Alan Greenberger said some elements of the proposal are very good, but the developer has left some important questions unanswered. “You haven’t really said why you need this much residential in such high buildings,” he said.  One of his concerns is the possibility that Phase I would be all that was built.
The developer has reached out to Old City, Rivers Edge and Northern Liberties civic associations as well as the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. Meetings with these groups have begun and will continue, project attorney Hercules Grigos of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel said.

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