The controversial proposal (PDF) for the 100 block of State Street goes before two city commissions next week, when the Landmarks and Urban Design commissions formally look at the plans.
The Landmarks Commission will likely have several resolutions to vote on at its Monday night meeting, says commission chair Stuart Levitan, but some of these will be advisory.
The Block 100 Foundation has proposed demolishing one historic building, the Schubert Building at 120 W. Mifflin St., for which Landmarks will have to grant approval. Another historic building, the Castle & Doyle Building at 125 State St., was originally proposed for demolition, but the developers have decided to save it. It will, however, be altered enough that Landmarks will also have to grant approval, Levitan says.
"Preserving the Castle and Doyle building was a significant advance on the part of the developers," he says.
For other parts of the project, Landmarks will only make recommendations, Levitan says. The Fairchild Building at the corner of Mifflin and Fairchild streets does not have landmark status but is eligible for it. And because it sits next to a landmark building, the commission will be able to make a recommendation to the Plan Commission, which will examine the project in March.
On Wednesday night, Urban Design Commission (UDC) will have a host of other questions to grapple with, says Ald. Marsha Rummel, who sits on both commissions. The UDC will have to make a judgment on whether the design concept to demolish the Fairchild Building for a private garden and park makes sense.
"How does this corner, as the architects like to say, hold the edge?" she asks. Urban Design will also determine how the new construction relates to the buildings around it.
Rummel so far doesn't have a favorable impression of the design, which she says looks like a suburban office park. She also has questions about why the project is being done.
"In today's market logic, they're being illogical," she says, noting that the redevelopment will significantly reduce the amount of usable square footage. "They don't have tenants. They're building on speculation. They haven't been able to show why they'll be able to rent this space."
Levitan also has questions about the economics. The group has spent about $7.5 million on all of the six buildings -- paying roughly double what they're worth -- and proposes to spend another $10 million on construction. The development would produce an estimated $200,000 a year in rent to fund the Overture Center. That means it'll take more than 85 years for the project to recoup its investment.
"The economics of this project remain a mystery to me," Levitan says.