In 1984, the unwritten Gentleman’s Agreement that forbade building above the 548-foot-high statue of William Penn atop City Hall was about to be eliminated when, in April, developer Willard Rouse proposed a skyscraper development that eventually became Liberty Place. The proposal apparently influenced more developers and architects to build towers above the former height limit. The Commerce Square twin towers were revealed at 2005 Market Street in Center City at the end of the year. Designed by I.M. Pei and Partners and developed by IBM and Maguire/Thomas Partners, the 41-story towers were not built simultaneously, as One Commerce Square was the first building finished in the complex.
One Commerce Square
The Philadelphia skyline is anchored by a group of particularly tall buildings, but just 40 years ago, not a single tower rose over 548 feet, the height of the City Hall tower that was completed in 1901. An informal “gentlemen’s agreement” held towers back from rising above the limit, but no developer was successful until One Commerce Square was approved in 1984, which was soon followed by a series of even taller skyscrapers. Philly YIMBY looks at the history behind these Center City buildings, which shaped a major portion of the Philadelphia skyline as we know it today.