Proposed Tower May Change Popular Parks

Once a barren stretch of muddy river water and broken concrete, over the past decade Center City’s Schuylkill riverfront has been transformed into one of the city’s most popular green spaces. A proposed new apartment tower however might radically alter this series of parks, which attracts more than one million visitors annually.


One Riverside, as the project is called, is being proposed by Center City mega-developer Dranoff Properties Inc.. The $85 million, 21 story tower is to be located on the site of what is currently a surface parking lot on 25th and Locust (pictured left), and would feature 167 apartments, 5 penthouses and a large retail space on the ground floor. The plans for One Riverside are sparking big controversy however, as its positioning perpendicular to 25th Street would in effect separate the Schuylkill River Park from the Riverbanks Park, compromising the area’s urban vistas and successful connectivity.


Indeed, One Riverside’s design seems to represent a classic irony of real estate – when a space becomes popular, it draws developers whose projects ultimately alter the very space and success that they seek to capitalize on.


The parks along the Schuylkill attract joggers and walkers, residents and office workers throughout the year.
The parks along the Schuylkill attract joggers and walkers, residents and office workers throughout the year.


For their part, local residents are especially concerned about One Riverside. Along with the issues associated with increased density, the tower would seriously effect the neighboring Schuylkill River Park Community Garden by blocking light and adding other plant stresses. Center City Residents Association (CCRA) is therefore cautioning against the current design, saying “the project has generated considerable comment from our members, most of which has been unfavorable. There is particular concern over the project’s impact on the…Community Gardens and the potential effect on neighborhood traffic.” CCRA President Jeffrey Braff acknowledges though that the project likely won’t need zoning variances, and that his organization has “little leverage other than the power of compelling arguments.”


While One Riverside has bristled the CCRA, Carl Dranoff, the project’s developer, argues the building’s new retail will bring big benefits to the green space. Dranoff recently spoke with the Philadelphia Business Journal, arguing that currently “There’s no place to get a bottle of water, a bagel, a sandwich when you are using the park. (One Riverside’s retail space) will tremendously activate and make (the parks) more attractive.” That kind of amenity could indeed go a long way towards winning over skeptics.


This project ultimately seems to speak to the give and take of Philadelphia’s amazing redevelopment: balancing the need for more vertical living against the continued development of popular new green spaces is the kind of problem many post-industrial cities would dream of having. It’s also an issue that one project is unlikely to put to rest.

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