Father-and-son development team Marc and Andy Kaplin have downsized their plans for a 19-story condo-and-hotel tower at the southwest corner of Second and Race Streets in Old City amid expected community opposition to the project.
The Kaplins’ Philadelphia-based Revolution Development Group is now proposing a six-story, 49-unit rental building that will need no special exceptions from Old City’s land-use rules, the two said Tuesday. Their original plan would have required city zoning officials to grant them a variance because it would have exceeded the 65-foot height limit for buildings there.
“When the day is over, we need a building that we can get approved and can make work from an economic point of view,” said Marc Kaplin, a Blue Bell-based land-use attorney. "There is still a possibility that we will pursue the larger building.”
The Kaplins said that they had received early encouragement from the Old City District neighborhood group when they first proposed the tower, designed by New York-based architect Morris Adjmi, over a year ago on land they had assembled across the street from the recently completed 17-story Bridge on Race apartment building.
The plan was presented in June 2018 to members of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, whose approval is needed because its design incorporates a three-story industrial building at 152 N. Second St. near the middle of the block that qualifies for historic protection.
The Kaplins reduced their proposed tower’s height by three stories in response to concerns raised by commission members, but when they approached the Old City District to discuss the new design, they felt as though they no longer had support from the group.
Old City District executive director Job Itzkowitz said that members of his group’s leadership had discussed the project with the Kaplins informally, but that no position had been taken on the proposal because it hadn’t been presented publicly.
“We knew there had to be a public process and [height and density were] going to be an issue, and it might not be what was best for the neighborhood,” Itzkowitz said.
While community support is not formally needed for land-use exceptions, zoning officials consider neighborhood-group decisions when ruling on variances. Legal challenges by residents can delay projects.
Rather than risk a drawn-out permitting battle, the Kaplins worked with Philadelphia-based architects Ambit Inc. to devise a building that needs no special exceptions, a six-story brick apartment building with big industrial-style windows and ground-floor retail spaces.
The project is expected to be reviewed by the Historical Commission’s architecture committee later this month, with the full panel taking up the proposal in September, Andy Kaplin said.