Art Commission Gives Conceptual OK To Glass Tower At 5th And Walnut

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Architect Cecil Baker and developer Tom Scannapieco went before the Philadelphia Art Commission Wednesday with their concepts for creating a 26-story residential tower at 5th and Walnut streets. They were granted conceptual approval with a few caveats, including asking the applicants to bring corrected project renderings, more detailed streetscape plans, and examples of exterior construction materials when they return to the Art Commission for final approval later this year.

The “ultra-high-end” glass tower will include 40 residential units, with two units each of about 4,000 square feet on floors five through 13, and one 8,000- to 9,000-square-foot unit on floors 14 through 26. The developers are “going after a very small, very rich segment of the population,” said Cecil Baker. There will also be a yet-to-be determined ground-floor retail component at the corner of 5th and Walnut. The building will not include a restaurant but will have a fully automated parking garage.

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Pittsburgh’s Chatham Village A Model For Urban Planning

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As modern architects experiment with new forms of urban life, Pittsburgh’s Chatham Village has been tucked away for decades on Mount Washington, the work of 1930s architects who apparently were ahead of their time.

Resident David Vater, 59, works as an architect from his home, and he heralds the work of urban planners Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright to anyone who will listen. Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright designed Chatham Village in the early 1930s under a commission from the Buhl Foundation, hoping to create a revolutionary new neighborhood organized around shared spaces.

“The idea was that rather than having to look at all that clutter and the cars and the streets, they would hide the streets,” Mr. Vater said.  “Instead of putting the street up the middle [of the houses], they’d put grass lawns up the middle, and gardens.  The grass lawns would be places for people to walk and enjoy and for children to play.”

A lifetime separates Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright from today’s urban planners, but their Chatham Village project is a quiet but important predecessor for modern architects.  For example, Seattle designer Ross Chapin’s contemporary “pocket neighborhoods” — small-scale neighborhoods oriented around shared spaces — are almost identical to Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright’s concept.

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