The city granted zoning waivers on Wednesday to allow a developer to build apartments in the Old Town that would preserve the characteristic mosaic of the Painted Bride Art Center.
Architect and developer Shimi Zakin said the deviations are necessary to ensure the feasibility of his plans to incorporate the 7,000-square-foot mural by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar into the development of an apartment building.
The fate of the mosaic has been uncertain since the arts center announced in 2017 that it wanted to sell its building, which is in a neighborhood coveted by developers.
The city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment allows Zakin to build its apartments 85 feet high, which is 20 feet taller than local zoning allows without variation. Zakin’s draft may also slightly exceed the density limits.
The decision is subject to appeal. Neighborhood groups didn’t want the city to grant zoning exceptions because neighbors worried about lack of parking and congested streets and setting a precedent that could invite other developers to build higher.
READ MORE: Fate of Painted Bride mosaic remains unclear as developer pursues zoning exceptions
The proposed building would include 64 apartments built on top of the Painted Bride mosaic at 230 Vine Street and leave the wall walls unchanged.
“It makes so much sense, I think,” said Emily Smith, executive director of the nonprofit arts group Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which preserves and provides access to the Zagar mosaics. “So that sounds like such a relief. “
Smith spoke to the artist shortly after hearing the news on Wednesday morning. “He was screaming with happiness,” she said. “And he said, ‘Well, now we’ve got to get down to business.’ “
His organization has an extensive mosaic restoration and preservation plan that has been developed over the years.
“We couldn’t be happier to get down to business and do everything we’ve been talking about for the past two years,” she said.
This story will be updated.