Could Renaissance Plaza Come to the Delaware?

Down on the waterfront, there’s a comprehensive Plan for the Central Delaware that envisions short- and long-term development along our urban riverbed. Among its various profferings is a 100-foot height limit on new structures. But nowhere in the current plans for a four-tower 1458-unit mixed use residential and retail development, known as Renaissance Plaza, being presented by developers Waterfront Renaissance Associates is that limit abided.

The project would occupy a 5.29 acre site located at 400 N. Columbus Blvd., at the intersection of Spring Garden and Columbus formerly slated to be the World Trade Plaza, according to PlanPhilly. Plans call for two 426 feet towers and two 227 feet towers.

Current view from the north

But right now developers are only circling among various civic groups and city agencies to present their current plants in order to compile community input, so that they can in turn make adjustments, according to Joe Schiavo, vice chair of the Old City Civic Association (OCCA). Developers appeared before the OCCA’s developments committee last month after previously coming before the Central Delaware Advocacy Group and the Planning Commission.

Height is one major issue that’s been raised by groups across the board. The Plan for the Central Delaware is based on a concept that favors distribution over density. It’s rooted in the idea that by limiting the height of new structures, distribution is forced because law forbids developers from creating one large tower where basically the first developer in dominates the area. Instead of one tall building, you get four or five smaller ones.

Architecture by Alesker & Dundon. Rendering from Planphilly

As such, height is one of the major issues to be addressed in a letter currently being drafted by OCCA members about the project, which will then go along to the Planning Commission, the group responsible for approving (or not) said plans.

Schiavo said his group looks at the concepts of the project and how it might impact the area, as opposed to liking or disliking plans.

Like or dislike? Rendering from Planphilly

According to Schiavo, the developers maintain they’ll build the project in phases, one every two years, which will mitigate over-density. But Schiavo said folks fear the developer might only complete one phase. As it is currently planned, phase one would include a tower with surface parking.

Another issue Schiavo noted was plans called for bi-level retail. Two floors of fruit and veggies, er, artisan shirts and slacks anyone?

It will be a little while before anything, if at all, happens with these current plans. Still, we’re not totally convinced that there’s a market for so many more residential units in this area. Or is there a surplus of people we don’t know about looking to rent a new apartment down by the river?

Move to the waterfront!!!

–Lou Mancinelli