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Mormons building apartment tower near Philly temple

First Published      Last Updated Feb 14 2014 07:36 am

Utahns visiting Philadelphia in the future may think they have stumbled onto City Creek's doppelgänger.

That's because the LDS Church — along with Philly's mayor, Michael Nutter — announced Wednesday that the Utah-based faith is building a 32-story residential tower and a new Mormon meetinghouse a block away from its temple now under construction.

The new 490,000-square-foot apartment building is being developed by the church's Property Reserve Inc. in "an important section of Philadelphia," PRI spokesman Dale Bills wrote in an email Thursday, "because it is a very attractive investment opportunity."

The market-rate housing — including 258 apartments and 13 rental townhouses — in the new LDS-owned high-rise, Bills said, "will meet the residential needs of an expanding employment base in Center City."

Plus, these "rental units and meetinghouse will be open to anyone," according to an article posted on philly.com, "not just members of the church."

The Mormon temple, tower and meetinghouse are going up just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near several Philly landmarks, including the Franklin Institute and the Free Library.

The residential tower was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York City, supported by BLT Architects in Philadelphia, the PRI spokesman said, and "inspired by Philadelphia's strong tradition of brick-and-masonry Georgian and Federal architecture."

Still, the Philly structure bears a striking resemblance to the City Creek residential tower that sits on the corner of South Temple and West Temple in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake City version has 30 floors, sits next to the downtown mall of the same name and is also owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some are asking: Could commercial development be the church's pattern for future urban temple sites?

Peggy Fletcher Stack