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Toll Bros. downsizes Jewelers Row condo tower by six floors

Department of Licenses and Inspections officials told Toll Bros. representatives Thursday that the agency had deemed the developer's application for a zoning permit to be "abandoned."

Artist’s rendering of Toll Bros.’ earlier planned condo tower on Jewelers Row, as seen from street level looking southwest.
Artist’s rendering of Toll Bros.’ earlier planned condo tower on Jewelers Row, as seen from street level looking southwest.Read moreSLCE Architects

Toll Bros. is downsizing its Jewelers Row ambitions, chopping six stories off the 29-story condo tower it had most recently proposed for the venerable Center City jewelry-shopping enclave.

The Horsham-based developer intends to make a submission to city surveyors Friday for an "updated lot consolidation based on a 23-occupied-story" project after deciding to not continue pursuing zoning for the taller building, Tim Spreitzer, a spokesman for Toll's City Living division, said in an email Thursday.

Spreitzer shared the new plan hours after the company received word from the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections that it had ceased consideration of Toll's request for permits to build the 29-story tower.

L&I deemed the developer's application for the zoning permits needed for the structure to be "abandoned" because Toll had failed to provide additional details requested about the plan, agency spokeswoman Karen Guss said in an email.

Said Spreitzer: "Toll Brothers' interest in developing Jewelers Row remains strong and unwavering. … We continue to plan this project in a manner that is mindful to the various stakeholders involved and will re-engage L&I at the appropriate time."

In an interview, Spreitzer said the decision to reduce the building's height by six floors was made as part of Toll's planning process. He declined to give additional details.

Toll retains demolition and zoning permits for the 16-story tower originally proposed for the shopping strip on the 700 block of Sansom Street. That original plan, disclosed last summer, called for replacing the buildings at 702, 704, 706, and 708-710 Sansom St. with 80 condo units over 16 stories. Permits for that project were awarded under the area's existing zoning guidelines.

But in December, Toll said it would pursue plans to build the 29-story, 109-unit building instead. In its revised zoning application for the taller tower, Toll requested permission to combine its development site with surrounding lots for the purposes of calculating how large a building it can construct through a zoning concept known as "unity of use."

In January, L&I requested additional information needed to evaluate the revised application, but the material was never received.

Toll said in June, meanwhile, that City Living division vice president Brian Emmons, who had been leading the Jewelers Row project, had left the company.

The project also remains a target for legal challenges by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, which has taken aim at the zoning and demolition permits already awarded to Toll.

Alliance president Paul Steinke said the group has appealed to Common Pleas Court an April ruling by L&I's review board rejecting arguments that historical protections should have been extended to the buildings slated for demolition.

Frank G. Schaffer, proprietor of FGS Gems in one of those buildings, said the permit appeals and zoning delays are granting him some solace.

When the condo tower plan was first proposed last summer, he was told to be ready to leave his shop by year's end. Now, he said, he believes he has some space to plan his next moves.

"It's a relief now, because I have more time," Schaffer said. "But that doesn't mean the end result will be any different."