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More review needed for Jewelers' Row condo tower

Lying just one block from Independence Hall, Jewelers' Row is one of Philadelphia's most historically significant merchant districts. Since 1851, the district has been home to hundreds of jewelers. Now, however, a condominium development project will forever change the face of Jewelers' Row - if it receives approval from the City's Design Review Committee.

The 18 story tower comprises 80 condominium units that would replace five properties in the 700 block of Sansom Street. The project received conditional approval from the City's Department of Licenses and Inspections, but a recent snag threatens to at least slow the project and delay the start of construction.

Last week, the Director of Licenses & Inspections notified Toll Brothers, the project's developer, that the department will not issue a final permit until the project has been considered by the City's Design Review Committee. Under the city's zoning laws, review by the committee is mandatory for all residential and commercial real estate projects that exceed 100,000 square feet, and the new project will have 107,000 square feet. The design review process may require several months to complete, but the committee's suggestions are not binding. Consequently, the final plan may not be much different from the plan that has received conditional approval.

As may be expected, many of the jewelry stores that will be displaced by the new project are pleased with the delay. Toll Bros. has stated that the project will include ground-floor retail space that will include jewelers. The design review process must begin within 150 days, and the developer must meet with members of the community while the process is underway. Even though the opinion of the design review committee is not final, the director of licenses and Inspections said that he expected the process to "inform and influence the overall design of the project."

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Jewelers Row condo tower plan hits zoning speed bump," Charles Fox, Aug. 18, 2016

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