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Bill could delay construction of controversial tower

5/20/2016 | Real Estate Blog

Reports indicate that a Philadelphia elected official has introduced a bill to delay construction work on a controversial 32-story tower in that city. The legislation would place a one-year moratorium on building work at the Washington Avenue and Broad Street site. This would give critics of the development time to provide input before any final decisions are made concerning the controversial mixed use project.

Some South Philadelphia and Center City residents say that the proposed tower would create a concrete and glass wall separating their communities. They say that the tower would be an eyesore and add to the already heavy traffic congestion in the area while offering few commercial benefits in return.

The developer behind the project originally wanted to build two towers containing 1,600 apartments at the site, but revised plans were submitted to the Civic Design Review Board in April 2016 after a backlash from local residents. The new proposal calls for a single tower with space for retail shops and restaurants in addition to residential units. The developer’s plans to erect a parking garage also faced fierce local resistance. However, a more modest mixed-use project planned by another developer for the area has been more favorably received by residents and looks set to proceed.

This story highlights how important extensive planning and thorough due diligence can be for commercial real estate developers. Experienced real estate attorneys may urge their clients to consult with local residents before embarking on major projects in historic or densely populated urban areas. Land use and zoning decisions are sometimes politically motivated, and legislators may be unwilling to approve projects that could cause them problems at the ballot box in the future.