PHILAPHILIA: Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week: Philadelphia River City

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
This massive addition to the city would have been the biggest skyscraper-building project since Penn Center. You could blame the NIMBYs for this huge development not going forward, but it turns out that corrupt-ass city officials and developers were just as responsible.

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Not really a whole city, just a buttload of ugly buildings.

Now here's a project that would have definitely changed things in good ol' Philadelphia, but was pretty much doomed from the get-go. This Dead-Ass Proposal was for a 8-acre, 15-million-square-foot, 15-year-long, $3.5 billion master plan for at least 10 tall buildings that would cover the Schuylkill Sea and the CSX and Septa rail tracks. Back in the early days of Philaphilia, I blamed NIMBYs for this huge development not going forward, but it turns out that corrupt-ass city officials and developers were just as responsible. Don't think that means NIMBYs didn't go balls-out apeshit over it.

This massive addition to the city would have been the biggest skyscraper-building project since Penn Center. It was first proposed by the dastardly World Acquisition Partners Corporation in the middle of 2006. Daroff Design literally drew up a rendering in SimCity and it was announced to the world. The River City would have 3,700 residential units, two massive hotels, one office tower, 2 million square feet of retail, and lots and lots of parking.

From the Schuylkill River side.

The massive development faced many hurdles. They needed to get air rights over all those train tracks, get lots and lots of developers involved, and it was so crazy that it needed Zoning Board adjustments of its Zoning Board adjustments. World Acquisition Partners thought that they had this shit in the bag. They reportedly had Christopher G. Wright, chief of staff of City Councilman-at-Large Jack Kelly in their pockets, allegedly providing him free rent in one of their apartment buildings and the use of their lawyer in exchange for some good ol' fashioned corrupt Philly politicianing.

Wright backed World's shit up all over the city. In April 2006, Wright set up a meeting between Jack Kelly, Darrell Clarke, and World Acquisition Partners to try and kill Clarke's bill for height restrictions on JFK Boulevard that would have hampered the development. From July to October 2006, Wright himself shopped the master plan out to developers. In November 2006, Wright met with members of the Logan Square Civic Association on behalf of World Acquisition Partners to try and quell the inevitable NIMBY firestorm.

Speaking of the Logan Square Civic Association, they hated literally every part of the project. It was officially proposed to them in December of 2006, a week before World was closing on the sale of some of the land. The NIMBYs were opposed to the height, the sky bridges between buildings, the width of one of the buildings, the buildings' distance from the sidewalk, the locations of parking garages, and the specific locations of the buildings down to the foot ... pretty much everything.

World kept the NIMBYs calm by saying that they would be happy to work with the neighbors and that the plans and renderings that were being presented were just conceptual. They also threw in some nonsense about the buildings being LEED certified just to shut them the hell up. World maintained that the design and use of each parcel would be up to the individual developers involved.

All the renderings are in this dark-gray-skied universe.

After that, the project continued to be shopped around until it died. No developer seemed to be willing to commit to this crazy-ass plan. In late 2007, it was reported that the River City was "still being pursued" and in August of 2008, the United States District Court filed six charges against Christoper G. Wright and the big players in World Acquisition Partners for everything from conspiracy to bribery to mail fraud, partially having to do with Wright's influence regarding the Philadelphia River City. It went to trial in February 2009 and Wright was found guilty of some of the charges, getting him a four-year prison sentence and the World dudes a little less.

A few weeks ago, a federal appeals court vacated the convictions due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2010 that limited the reasons for convictions regarding the corruption that was involved in this case and others like it. Basically, World didn't bribe Wright directly enough for it to be considered a bribe. What a bunch of bullshit.

This proposal died from being way too over-reaching and crazy in a location with the nuttiest NIMBYs in town. On top of that, World Acquisition Partners was a slimy-ass sleazeball of a corporation. That whole Wright situation was not the only corruption-based trial they've been a part of, and I'm not going to mention all the corrupt often-get-their-ass-kissed-by-the-media politicians that they've "contributed" to. I talk about architecture, bitches.

What could have, but probably wouldn't, have been.

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