Please ignore the title of this blog post and its location tag for a minute, if you don’t mind. We’re going to show you a photo of a building and we’re going to ask you to guess the neighborhood where it’s located. And just to be clear, we’re talking about the red brick four-story building on the left in the first picture below. Ready?

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Where is this?
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View from the corner

Obviously, this building at 312-14 Race St. is in Old City. It’s probably one of the Old City-ist buildings we’ve ever seen. Whether it’s the bricks or the mostly intact cornice or the storefront windows or the fire escape on the front, this building just screams “I am in Old City!!!” Shhh… just listen.

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Historic view

As this building is located in Old City, it’s, uh, old. The building dates back to 1831, and it operated as a hotel and tavern over the course of most of its history. Hotels in the building included Binder’s, Ulman’s, and the Germania Hotel back in the 19th century, but you probably know it as DiNardo’s, a restaurant that operated out of the building for 42 years before closing down back in 2018. Toward the beginning of DiNardo’s lengthy run, the building was added to the local Historic Register as contributing in the Old City District. That means that making any exterior changes to the building would require sign-off from the Historical Commission.

We bring this extremely Old-Cityish building to your attention today because a proposal to redevelop the property recently landed with said Historical Commission. The developers not only own the former hotel building, but they also have the two adjacent buildings at 316 and 318 Race St., which are not nearly as old as their neighbor. They date back only to the 1950s, and as such are not considered contributing to the Historic District. So they are not protected from demolition or modification. BUT, if they were to be torn down, anything that replaces them would need approval from the Historical Commission. Here, take a look at what’s being proposed, with a hat tip to Studio 111 Architecture:

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The project would largely leave the historic building intact, aside from demolishing a rear section of the building that’s almost invisible from any direction. The two non-historic buildings, however, would be completely demoed and replaced by a new structure. The new plans call for a six-story building across the entire property with 26 apartments and two commercial spaces. Four existing floors to the east will be joined by four new floors to the west with frontage at Race Street, with a facade that will be designed to look like other buildings in Old City. New 5th and 6th floors will be set back from the street, as to not distract from the existing historic facade or the faux-historic facade next door.

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Across the street

The Commission staff seems favorably inclined toward the proposal, noting that the demolition will be limited to non-historic buildings and non-visible sections of the historic building. They also like the massing and scale of the new construction, appreciating the four stories right on Race Street and the presence of setbacks that will make it tough to see the upper levels from the street. We also endorse the height choice, as it will be compatible with both the rather old building next door as well as the newer apartment building across the street. And let’s face it, height and density in this desirable area are always great to see. Perhaps, best of all, the project seems likely to move forward, given the comments from the Historical Commission staff, so we expect to see construction here at some point in the relatively near future.