The broad outlines of a new design review process for big developments in Philadelphia were discussed publicly for the first time at a City Planning Commission meeting today.

The proposal calls for a new seven-member board, comprised principally of design professionals such as architects and planners, that would take into account aesthetics and other arguably subjective criteria as part of the formal municipal review of major new developments.

After weighing community input and the views of the developer, and after considering how well the project in question meshes with the “public realm” of the neighborhood where it is being built, the new board would make an advisory recommendation to the Planning Commission. The commission would not be bound to follow the committee’s recommendation.

As outlined by new Planning Commission Executive Director Alan Greenberger, design review would only be used for large projects exceeding 100,000 square feet, as well as those seeking zoning variances that . Projects that can be built as a matter of right without zoning variances or other special city approvals would not be required to participate.

At today’s meeting, Greenberger said he would seek feedback on his proposal in January and February. He hoped to have the new board — which he said would only need the approval of the Planning Commission and a handful of senior Nutter administration officials — formed and active by the spring. No City Council vote appears to be necessary.

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