The developer for the World Trade Center waterfront project is accusing the city of imposing a de facto moratorium on waterfront development and substantially impairing the property value of the project's site along the Delaware River.
Waterfront Renaissance Associates (WRA) filed a motion Friday in federal court seeking to amend its 2007 lawsuit against the city and neighborhood groups that accused the defendants of derailing its proposed billion-dollar complex at Callowhill Street.
New zoning procedures "make it impossible for WRA to carry out a program of phased high-rise development on its site, as planned by WRA and encouraged by the city for almost 20 years," the motion says.
A spokesman for Mayor Nutter declined to comment. Arthur W. "Terry" Lefco, lawyer for the neighborhood groups, also declined to comment.
The developer filed suit after City Councilman Frank DiCicco got legislation passed establishing a 65-foot height limit in and around Old City. The World Trade Center project, which was to feature four towers, was subject to the height limit.
WRA, led by New York developer Martin Schiffman, accused DiCicco of pushing the legislation to pander for votes from among local civic associations.
According to Friday's motion, DiCicco admitted in a deposition that it was a mistake to have included the project in the restricted area.
DiCicco, who is not a defendant, could not be reached for comment Friday. He has previously declined comment, citing the pending lawsuit.
This year, DiCicco successfully pushed legislation to lift the height limit. However, the motion says, the legislation "did not restore the status quo" that existed before the height limit was imposed in 2006.
The city, the motion points out, has implemented new zoning procedures for projects in what is called the Central Delaware Riverfront District Overlay (CRO), which covers the area between I-95 and the Delaware River from Oregon to Allegheny Avenues.
The new zoning procedures impair "the developability and thus the value of all commercially zoned parcels within the CRO, including WRA's site, because developers, buyers, lenders, and potential anchor tenants are unable to determine . . . what can and what cannot be built on a particular parcel, or to plan a multiphase project requiring multiple zoning permits," the motion says.
The World Trade Center project was first proposed in the late 1980s and was backed by Mayor W. Wilson Goode.
Waterfront Renaissance Associates entered into agreements with three neighborhood groups: Old City Civic Association, River's Edge Civic Association, and the now-defunct Penn's Landing North Civic Association.
In exchange for design concessions, the groups agreed to support the World Trade Center project. All three groups are defendants in the lawsuit, which claims breach of contract by the groups.