How do you hide a 35-story building?
That was the task given Stantec Architecture Inc. when commissioned to design a new residential tower on the site of the historic Lit Brothers store.
The hope was that the $102 million proposed tower would hardly be visible from Market Street and certainly would not detract from the Renaissance Revival facade that remains of the Lit Brothers store.
The Philadelphia Historic Commission will assess Stantec's efforts Tuesday when the plan for the proposed Mellon Independence Center Tower is reviewed by the commission's architectural committee.
The proposal from Brickstone Realty Corp., which owns the Mellon Independence Center, represents what could be a dramatic leap for a long-hoped-for resurgence of the Market East neighborhood.
With plans for a refurbished Gallery taking form, as well as the possibility of the proposed Market8 casino across the street, the Brickstone project, if approved, would add an influx of upscale residents to what has been a rather tired stretch of Center City.
Even John J. Connors, president of Brickstone, expressed some surprise at this turn for the property.
"If you had asked me 15 years ago, I might have guessed an office tower would work for this site," Connors said. "But the world has changed . . . now the best use is residential."
The tower would rise from the center-rear of the Mellon Independence Center, a full-block complex bordered by Market, Filbert, Seventh, and Eighth Streets.
It would be set 180 feet back from Market Street and the historic Lit Brother's facade, to "minimize the visual impact of the tower," according to the plan.
To further diminish its presence, the narrow tower - planned for 66 feet by 112 feet - would be primarily white to light-gray in color with light-gray glazing.
"The neutral palette appearing in the distance behind the building will disappear into the background and not draw your eye away from the Market Street facade," according to the plan.
The tower would have one floor of retail space and five of office space, with the remaining 29 floors devoted to residential.
Connors said there would be about 340 residential units.
Although the project would require some demolition at the site, it would not affect the Lit Brother's facade or the facade along Filbert Street, including its bronze wall and the masonry footbridge over Filbert.
Connors estimated that the tower would take about two years to build once city approval was given.