By Justin Udo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A proposed condominium project in Philadelphia’s historic Jewelers Row was already controversial. Now, you can just about double it. Developer Toll Brothers wants to increase the height of the tower to 29 stories, instead of the original 16.

Five buildings along the 700 block of Sansom Street would be demolished to make way for the luxury condos — 109 of them under the new plan, which Toll Brothers says is permitted within the current zoning.

“I think it’s wonderful. I think if they can make it one hundred stories high it would be terrific,” said Jeffrey Barsky, whose family has owned a jewelry store in the neighborhood for more than 100 years. “I think it will add to the neighborhood. It’s a beautiful neighborhood.”

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Barsky says that sentiment is shared by most neighboring business owners. But more than 6,800 people have signed a petition to save the three and four story buildings from the wrecking ball.

Paul Steinke is with the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “We are preparing to appeal the demolition permits that were obtained by the developer last week. We are going to Toll Brothers to ask them to include preservation of these buildings,” he said.

(credit: Justin Udo)

(credit: Justin Udo)

Toll Brothers released the following statement:

“Based on new agreements of sale, Toll Brothers City Living has filed an amendment to our zoning application that would increase the height of the Washington Square project from 16 to 29 stories, bringing the total number of units available from 80 to 109.  This density is permitted within the current zoning for the site, as well as it being in character for other developments within the Washington Square area.  We remain committed to retaining retail space targeted for jewelry stores along Sansom Street to preserve the iconic Jewelers Row streetscape while rejuvenating it for the future.”

The Department of Licenses and Inspections will determine whether the proposal is permitted under the zoning code.