A new parking garage will be built next to the historic Arch Street United Methodist Church located at Broad and Arch. While the idea had created a bit of controversy and concern, mostly by the church as well as the 150-year-old Masonic Temple, developing team Realen Properties has made steps to appease those concerned; main issues included the possibility that building the garage would cause damage to the 144 year-old church as well as block natural light (the garage will stand only two feet from the west wall of the church). The last time that the project went before the commission, Realen had said that moving forward with the renovation of the historic Liberty Title Building (101-109 N. Broad Street, a property that Realen paid upwards of $6M for in 2008), which will be made into a hotel, depended on whether or not approval was given for the garage; now representatives for the developer say the projects are not linked.

The purpose of the new parking garage is mostly to serve the new and much larger Convention Center, and earlier this month the Philadelphia City Planning Commission approved the project (in a 4-1 vote), giving Dennis Maloomian the go-ahead on the garage; the Masonic Temple as well as the Arch Street United Methodist Church have also now given their blessing in green-lighting the project. This vote approved Maloomian’s plans for a 530-space parking garage located above a 16,000-square-foot ground floor (currently not under lease) retail space.

Realen Properties, in an attempt to make the plan much more appealing to the neighbors, has offered to set aside a self-contained shaft in the corner of the parking garage, equipped with mechanical systems where an elevator would provide easier access from the garage to the church. Bill 100759 (zoning bill for the garage), was introduced by First District City Councilman Frank DiCicco in November of last year will now be presented in front of the Rules Committee at a public hearing (date has not been set). In regards to damage the garage will cause, Realen has agreed to conduct vibration tests and drafted up an agreement stating that any damage caused to the historic building will be repaired by Realen Properties. Realen has also offered to provide additional lighting around the structure.

As far as design and facade for the parking garage, there must be separate planning staff approval in order for the project to get its building permit. Alan Greenberger, Commission Chairman and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development, is pushing for progress of the hotel, saying if the project doesn’t move ahead he is going to get really grumpy about the design of the garage going forward (uh-oh).

The building will be covered with a silver-like cloth, which will reflect outside conditions as they change (i.e. the sun and the sky), which Greenberger described as having an “it’s there, but it’s not there” quality (so, it’s like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?). This parking garage could definitely be an asset to Center City, as the amount of people that the expanded Convention Center will bring will also need to be accommodated with convenient parking. If negotiations between Realen, the church and the Masonic temple continue to be positive, they will most likely be able to co-exist in the end. View photos and renderings here.