In a bit of an odd turn for a controversial project, it seems like Toll Brothers is reducing the height of the condo building they’re planning to build on Jewelers Row. A reminder, last summer Toll Brothers came out with a plan to demolish the buildings at 702-10 Sansom St. and replace them with a 16 story building with 80 condo units and retail on the first floor. People quickly flipped out because they believed that the project would ruin the integrity of the oldest diamond district in the country. The Preservation Alliance posted a petition that got thousands of signatures. After all, who wouldn’t want to keep this around?
We tried to be objective about the situation. We lamented the impact the project would have on the block, recognizing the character of the existing buildings and the scale of Jewelers Row. But at the same time, we felt compelled to stand up for the developer’s right to demolish buildings that aren’t designated as historic and build a by-right project. So we weren’t stoked about the project, but we acknowledged that the developer could build it if they so desired. And we hoped that this would be the last such project on Jewelers Row, as this project would spur the Historical Commission to designate the rest of the block.
By the end of last year, we learned that Toll Brothers had revised their project, growing the proposed tower from 16 stories to 29 stories. This got project opponents worked up all over again, as did the project renderings from SLCE Architects, which came to light back in January.
Yesterday, Philly.com reported that the plans had changed yet again, and that the tower would only rise 23 stories. The article went into some details about plans for the 29-story building being abandoned with L&I, but it seems likeliest to us that the developers simply looked at their pro forma and decided to make the change as a result. Like the previous iterations, this project can be built by right and in terms of the demolition permits, they remain firmly in place.
The Preservation Alliance has an appeal filed with the Court of Common Pleas on the subject, insisting that the buildings can still be protected even though the developer has a demolition permit in hand. As a result, there’s a still a world in which a court could step in to stop the demolition, but we just don’t see it. Instead, we believe that the buildings will be demolished at some point in the coming months and work will begin on the condo tower. At this point, we’re gonna wait til they break ground to tell you, for sure, exactly how many stories it will rise.