Race Street Rising

East, Newsletter
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Race Street Tower. (Courtesy Peter Gluck)

Retail will wrap around the proposed tower’s base at Second and Race Street (Courtesy Peter Gluck and Partners).

Last week Philadelphia’s new zoning code went into effect, but projects nurtured under the old code may still be rising. Just yesterday, architect Peter Gluck presented a tower proposal to the Old City Civic Association for a 16-story building adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Because the zoning permits were filed last month the building is subject to old code.

Gluck’s presentation of 205 Race Street soured when new renderings revealed that an early proposal by SHoP Architects, initially approved at a 100-foot height, had morphed into a 197-foot tower that sets back from Race Street, PlanPhilly reported. The group voted 11 to 1 to oppose the project.

Race Street Tower. (Courtesy Peter Gluck)

The mildly zigzag facade rises 56′ before stepping back to the 197′ tower. (Courtesy Peter Gluck and Partners)

Race Street Tower. (Courtesy Peter Gluck)

The tower’s height is intended to gesture to the height of the bridge. (Courtesy Peter Gluck and Partners)

In a phone interview on his way back to New York from the presentation, Gluck said that the timing was coincidental. He added that the design phase of the project began more than a year ago, when political wrangling surrounding zoning legislation made the outcome of the code anything but certain. Gluck and the developer Jeffery Brown decided to move forward while the zoning debates played out. “We knew what was going on,” Gluck said. “We designed it not for the zoning strictures, but what made sense urbanistically and what was doable from an economic standpoint.”

Gluck would not comment on curtain wall materials or engineering while the building is in the midst of the permitting process. But he did say that the taller height was a shift in massing intended to respond to the neighborhood context, adding that volume remains much the same. The initially approved building was 100 feet high all the way around its perimeter. The architect said the new design creates a lower parapet at 56 feet along Race Street, before setting back 14 feet and allowing the 197-foot high tower to rise. The setback would make way for a green roof and a two-story cutout into tower along the Race Street side. The design’s new Race Street height is intended to offer clear views of the bridge, while emphasizing the corridor leading to the recently completed Race Street Pier. The tower is intended to respond to the height of the bridge, though detractors point out that the new code addresses nearby building height and not the bridge.

Copious amounts of space would be set aside for a ground floor retailer with a glass storefront wrapping around Second Street. The glazing would give way to service docks along Florist Street, which runs just under the bridge. In an area known for its narrow colonial streets, Gluck said that the bridge allows the Florist Street service docks to be uniquely qualified to accommodate large trucks needed to service a supermarket. It’s an amenity that Gluck said the area needs, along with the people to use it. “Old city desperately needs population and retail, the kind of things that make a city work,” said Gluck. “Right now there’s a very long derelict area and our project is meant to enhance that movement toward the pier.”


9 Responses to “Race Street Rising”

  1. barryg says:

    This would be amazing for the city and neighborhood, so of course OCCA voted against it.

  2. Gbarry says:

    This is the same plan as last year except with more glitter. They need to go back to the first plan because these last two are horrible. Personally I would like to meet the person that wants to live 60 feet from that triangle billboard. barryg go back to Philadelphia Speaks or better yet, get a life

  3. Joe Schiavo says:

    Attempting architectural schemes without respect for, or understanding of, context and governing regulation, is folly. The proposed structure is exciting, but also anachronistic and disturbing, due to willful disregard of applicable standards and the modest – and codified – prevailing scale of the Old City Historic District. Most all professionals are capable of creating marvelous design, when there are no parameters imposed; genius creates marvelous design, within the parameters of a given program. There is a solution that is both exciting and appropriately contextual.

  4. HenryS says:

    I don’t understand why this building needs to be in old city, it seems much better suited for CC or somewhere in the blighted market street area between City Hall and Indenpence hall. Why add such a modern building to overshadow the most historic urban area in the country?

  5. Karen Joslin says:

    The new building reminds me of amazing, on-the-edge buildings I’ve seen in Barcelona and Sydney. They bring a new energy, excitement and end up fitting in wonderfully well in the historic cityscape.

  6. Naveen says:

    Wow, a beautiful building with ground floor glass-fronted retail with no elevation or set-back. Anywhere but in Philadelphia people would be clamoring to see this thing built.

    That people would have a blighted, empty lot rather than this building because it does not “conform” with historical standards is both stupid and absurd.

  7. Larry M says:

    Peter, that is a beautiful design. I’ve been living in Old City for nearly 20 years. It’s so stale here. Instead of combining great contemporary architecture with historic buildings as in London and Paris, the local residents want to pretend they live in Williamsburg, VA. I really hope this gets a green light before Old City is just dead city.

  8. joey mariano says:

    As an artist, i think it looks really cool. I’d like to see more pixel buildings. animal-style.com

  9. Brian Novello says:

    To find out more about 205 Race, or to SUPPORT 205 RACE, please visit


Post new comment

Name (required)

E-Mail (required)

Advertise on The Architect's Newspaper.

Submit your competitions for online listing.

Submit your events to AN's online calendar.



Copyright © 2015 | The Architect's Newspaper, LLC | AN Blog Admin Log in. The Architect's Newspaper LLC, 21 Murray Street 5th Floor | New York, New York 10007 | tel. 212.966.0630
Creative Commons License