So much is taking place in the city from a development standpoint that sometimes we need to make a quick return visit to check on a project we recently covered, as the pace of development news can be faster than Trae Turner stretching a gapper into a triple. For 970 N. Delaware Ave., we were here only a few weeks ago to admire the progress of the street wall that was rising on the west side of the easternmost street in the neighborhood. Since then, updated plans have been presented to the Civic Design Review for a residential addition that would add several stories to the plans for the northern-most building in the development. Let’s refamiliarize ourselves with the layout before diving into the details.
A rewind: A six-building complex named Five on Canal has been under construction for quite some time, with previous plans to bring 462 apartment units and over 20K sqft of commercial space to this former warehouse site. But developers GY Properties are looking to go even bigger, proposing an additional 42 units in Building A to bring the total unit count to 504 units across the complex, along with 140 car parking spaces and 196 bicycles spaces. Additionally, the design from HDO Architecture has also been shifted slightly, with four short-term units proposed along Canal St. at the very edge of the property, with a slightly reduced commercial footprint immediately to the south. As you can see, this height addition would mimic the other residential buildings in this project.
Despite the continuation of the previously-approved design and the additional density, the CDR panel wasn’t in love with the updates. The planned short-term units at the north end would limit street activity compared to commercial uses, and the streetscape itself was somewhat foreboding with the lack of windows and covered walkways, per their commentary. The loss of transparency from Canal St. to Delaware Ave. was also a concern, as this approach would turn Canal into something of an alleyway. The before-and-afters illustrate just how striking this proposed change could be.
While we understand the sentiment here and are always fond of optimizing the street presence and usability of every morsel of land possible, we think this might be a bit of an overreach. The north side of Canal St. was pitched as an entryway to a meandering, walkable street, lined with cafes and pedestrians. The reality of the situation is that this entryway is barely navigable, with no sidewalks and illegal dumping more prevalent than other passersby. After pushing past the aromatic dumpster of the meat-packing operation next door, the entire NW side of the street is a fenced-off empty lot – hardly a welcoming sight no matter what sort of retail enticements might beckon.
No matter what we think, this project will make a return visit to the CDR sometime in the near future, and we may very well see an updated design. Given the realities of financing that were mentioned in the meeting, we would bet that we see those four short-term spots stick around, though perhaps in a different spot. Either way, this area will continue to see changes, even as the details continue to evolve.