Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two luxury hotels will bring more life to the area around "Centre Square"


So, what the heck is Centre Square, you may ask? Well, it's actually the original name given to where City Hall sits today.

When Billy P (aka William Penn) founded Philadelphia back in 1682, he created one of the first major grid systems in the US. The purpose of using a grid plan was to create wide streets (which are considered narrow today) with right angles, for ease of planning and to avoid overcrowding. The planning aspect definitely held up, but overcrowding did not; just like it did not in New York, Boston, etc.

Anyway, with Billy P's master grid plan also came Philadelphia's 5 Original Squares: 1) Southwest Square, 2) Northwest Square, 3) Southeast Square, 4) Northeast Square, and 5) Centre Square. You now know them today as: 1) Rittenhouse Square, 2) Logan Square, 3) Washington Square, 4) Franklin Square, and 5) Philadelphia City Hall.

There's your free history lesson for the day, and from someone who is not certified to teach it.

Okay, back to the luxury hotel project at 15th St & Chestnut St.

If you are not familiar with where this is exactly, it's the surface parking lot directly behind the Ritz Carlton Residences (just across from City Hall). The parcel sits on the northeast corner of 15th & Chestnut, to be exact.

The reason I feel that this project is significant is not just for tourism, but for everyday street life. It fills a missing gap in a busy Center City block (surface parking lots are very 1980s these days), makes great use of density/scale, brings 2 new names in luxury hotel living to Philadelphia, and will have ground floor retail for all to enjoy.

And since Philadelphia has gotten better at planning over the past few years, with the new zoning code and all, it appears that most developers are putting forth projects that offer "smarter" features (e.g. mixed-use, underground parking, sustainable design, etc).

Now that Dilworth Plaza Park plans to cut the ribbon on 9/4, Centre Square City Hall will now have a suitable public space for both residents and tourists alike. Just like it was intended to, over 300 years ago.

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