Infrastructure and Design Shorts

Projects remaking the face of Philadelphia


By Belinda Sharr

LOVE Park Construction Moves Forward After Lengthy Delay; to Open in November
After nearly two years of construction, LOVE Park is inching closer to completion. Demolition began in February 2016 with the redesign plan detailing a new green space, concession stands, structural improvements and a water feature. The LOVE statue was relocated to Dilworth Park, and it is now at another undisclosed location during the continued work. The delay was caused by the discovery of bricks, pipes, excess dirt and a ventilation system found underground during excavation, and the removal of these items added many more months to the project timeline. However, work has picked up and LOVE Park is set to make its holiday season debut in late November when it will host the 2017 Christmas Village, which typically opens during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. The grand opening of the park, which will include a completely renovated welcome center sponsored by Saint Gobain, will open in full in the spring of 2018.

I-95 Cap Park Plans Include Greenery and Trees with a View of the River
Plans are in the works for Philadelphia’s I-95 park, which will connect the waterfront to Center City and provide 4 acres of green space above the current roadway, as well as an 8-acre adjacent civic space. The $225 million initiative will span from Chestnut and Walnut streets and is in development by Delaware River Waterfront Corp. The park will be a “vibrant destination location for recreational, cultural and commercial activities for the residents and visitors of Philadelphia,” according to the DRWC website. Current renderings show possible architecture including benches, walkways, water fountains similar to those in Dilworth Park, a café, grass and trees. The sloping of the ground toward the river combined with current pedestrian bridges tilted away from the water presents a challenge—both for construction purposes and for ensuring visibility of the river. However, the city thinks the problem can be easily fixed. Design, permits and building plans will be ready by the end of 2019, with construction to begin in 2020—and the completion of the park is expected around 2022.

Rail Park Phase One to Open This Winter Ahead of Schedule
Phase One of the Philadelphia Rail Park—Philly’s version of the High Line—will open in January 2018, nearly a year earlier than expected. Construction moved quickly on the old Reading Railroad lines throughout early 2017 due to the mild winter, according to Friends of the Rail Park. This early portion will stretch from Broad and Noble to Callowhill Street between 11th and 12th streets, and it will feature walkways, trees, art installations and a space for gathering. A 1920s railcar will be refurbished and installed as a welcome center near the middle of the park at some point in 2018. The $10.3 million cost for the first phase, which will serve as a “proof of concept” and measures one quarter of a mile, was raised by public and private funds. The entire Rail Park will be divided into three parts (the viaduct, the cut and the tunnel) and is slated to measure 3 miles from 31st and Girard, through Phase One and up 8th and Fairmount.

‘Living’ Fence at 30th Street Station: Beautifying a Normally Unattractive Necessity
Typically, construction work and fences can appear unsightly while in progress, although they allow an attractive result at the end of a project. But what about during the building process? SHIFTSPACE architects and designers beautified the typical construction fence by installing a temporary piece at 30th Street Station that hid the worksite while creating a visually pleasing wall of plants for pedestrians to view. The company worked with Amtrak and University City District to create units that housed various-sized planters that either hung on or were installed in front of the fence. The anchor tall planter, low planter and wall planter were filled with colorful shrubbery which created a wall of greenery that juxtaposed with the silver metal fence links and concrete sidewalk. The planter units were designed to be reusable and have already been moved to a new location at another construction project in the city, offering sustainability and attractiveness elsewhere.

LEED Gold Mixed-Used Building Opens on Race Street
The “Bridge” development project—named for its proximity to the Ben Franklin Bridge—is a mixed-use, 17-story project that features a combination of 146 residential units as well as four retail spaces; the project has achieved LEED-Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. United By Blue, a lifestyle and apparel company that is heavily involved with water cleanup projects in the region, will be one retailer at the 205 Race St. location. The building met strict green architecture and construction standards, and now the focus will be on sustainable amenities for residents: Energy-efficient appliances will help keep electricity bills in check, the parking garage offers both electric vehicle chargers and bike storage and maintenance facilities, and the 100 percent nonsmoking building will also employ a green housekeeping program to keep indoor air quality high. Native plantings in the outdoor gathering spaces are designed to manage stormwater onsite.

Challenge Accepted

The Living Building Challenge demands that teams exceed LEED requirements to create buildings that restore nature   

An artist rendering of Re:Vision Architecture’s concept for the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s multi-building complex. | Courtesy Alice Ferguson Foundation

The Living Building Challenge is the black belt of the green-building scene. The international building certification program, philosophy and advocacy tool was conceived in 2006 as a way to exceed LEED requirements—the standard in green building certification—challenging designers, builders and architects to build advanced sustainable buildings.

To be certified as a Living Building, seven categories must be met. The categories are represented as petals on a flower, and they are: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Each petal is subdivided into 20 Imperatives. Nearly any building project—new or existing—of any scale in any location is eligible.

It’s so strict that there are only five buildings fully certified in the world—all in the U.S. The impetus to create the Living Building Challenge occurred when Cascadia Green Building Council—the U.S. Green Building Council chapter in the Northeast U.S. and part of Canada—wanted to improve upon LEED standards, which started in 1998. The group has since spun off into a separate 501c3 organization, The International Living Future Institute, with offices in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.

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The Navy Yard adds another sustainable building to its arsenal

GlaxoSmithKline's new LEED Platinum certified building. | Photo credit: Francis Dzikowski / Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP This weekend, GlaxoSmithKline, an international pharmaceutical company, is officially moving their Philadelphia office into some fresh digs. Even better the newly-constructed, light-filled, four-story building at the Navy Yard is slated for LEED Platinum certification.

The move has allowed GSK to reduce its office space needs by 75 percent through innovative multi-purpose space design that enables employees to surf from workspace to workspace as their activities change throughout the day. Employees are encouraged to work where they’re most comfortable, whether it’s in a space-age looking chair in the atrium, hovering at an adjustable sit-to-stand workstation, or sipping a hot beverage at the café.

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Ambler Boiler House transformed from industrial icon to symbol of sustainable design

The Ambler Boiler House is just steps away from Ambler's SEPTA regional rail station. | Photo from Heckendorn Shiles ArchitectsFor generations, the towering Keasbey & Mattison smokestack on the Ambler Boiler House has been an icon in the town of Ambler. Built in 1897, the smokestack was initially a symbol of the town’s booming industry. By the 1970s, it spoke to a depressed economy. Today, the spire represents a shift to an eco-friendly future: the space is now a 48,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum office building. That’s especially good news for Ambler, considering Keasbey & Mattison was in the business of producing asbestos products.

“Ambler was a bit of a company town, and you still see some other brick structures that have a similar history,” says Mitch Shiles, a principal with Heckendorn Shiles Architects, the firm that transformed the space. Like the asbestos plant founders, the building’s current owners, Summit Realty, were drawn to the location in part because of the easy train access. The building is a short walk to Ambler’s SEPTA regional rail station. Transit-oriented development is a big benefit in the quest for LEED Platinum certification, the highest mark in energy-efficient design.

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Growing Greener: Philly builds first LEED-certified firehouse

Fire officials and Mayor Nutter perform the ceremonial "push" of the fire engine to open the new firehouse. | Photo by the Philadelphia Fire Department/ City of PhiladelphiaThis Tuesday, Philadelphia added to its growing list of green building achievements when it opened the city’s first LEED-certified firehouse. Built in Disston Park to serve Mayfair and Tacony, Engine 38 Firehouse is LEED Silver certified. The 12,200-square-foot firehouse features recycled materials from within 500 miles, solar panels and a green roof. Other unique elements include a community and training room, and exterior artwork that shows the history of the fire department and the Tacony neighborhood. The original firehouse was demolished when a new I-95 access ramp and interchange improvements were made at Cottman Avenue. 

Rehab Project: Fishtown welcomes LEED Platinum building

The new YIKES storefront in Fishtown. | Image by Danni SinisiOn a corner of Girard Avenue in Fishtown sits a new milestone in green design and construction. The building—once a tavern before becoming vacant—is now the first LEED Platinum mixed-use rehab project in Pennsylvania. Platinum is the highest level for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The building's first floor houses the offices for YIKES, a web design and development company; the second floor has apartments.

The rehab project was carried out by Greensaw, the local sustainability-minded design and build firm. Plumbob Architects, Sustainable Solutions Corporation and the Energy Coordinating Energy also contributed.

As expected, the building is filled with energy efficiency features, such as spray foam insulation and water efficient plumbing fixtures, as well as energy efficient lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment. But what makes the space especially unique is the integration of salvage materials—a Greensaw specialty. High school bleachers provided flooring and trim, fallen Philadelphia trees and palette wood created Black Walnut custom kitchen cabinets, and redwood from an old water tower was used for the façade and roof decks (sourced from Provenance Architecturals). The photos below and above are from the unveiling ceremony on Friday, September 21.

The YIKES office kitchen features cabinets made from salvage Black Walnut. | Image by Danni SinisiYIKES owners Tracy and Mia in front of the new LEED Platinum plaque. | Image by Danni Sinisi

Lasting Impression: An innovative building for a forward-thinking collection

story by Shaun Brady | photos from The Barnes

While the Barnes Foundation is best known for its priceless art collection—which now resides in a new $150-million building on the Ben Franklin Parkway—its founding mission extended beyond the man-made wonders hanging on the walls to the natural beauty outside of them. The recent relocation has left most of the Barnes’ horticultural program behind at its previous home in Merion, but the new digs were designed and built using sustainable practices fully in line with that original green vision.

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Cultural Shift: Philadelphia's major institutions embrace green building practices

story by Kristen Dowd

Walls made from plastic bottles. Rainwater recycled to flush toilets. Electricity generated from the sun. Green building is on the rise across the nation, and institutions in the Philadelphia region are prime examples. While only some have official Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, all have a common mission: to reduce their carbon footprint and educate visitors about the benefits of sustainable design. Below are six institutions in and around the
Philadelphia region leading this movement.

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Green Way: Ambitious, mixed-use houising project breaks ground near Temple

Steps away from the Temple University Train Station is another example of how green building can be affordable. Paseo Verde, or “green way,” is a new, sustainable mixed-use rental housing development spearheaded by the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) and Jonathan Rose Companies. APM has already built eco-friendly, single-family homes in the neighborhood—their 13 Sheriden Street Houses are slated for LEED Gold certification.
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Maximum Utility: Highly efficient low-income housing comes to East Parkside Historic District

West Philadelphia’s Parkside Historic District is known for its architectural diversity. The streets feature Victorian homes, turn-of-the-century Flemish-style structures, and buildings inspired by intricate Dutch and German designs. But now there’s a new architecture in town. In September 2009, the 4200 block of W. Stiles Street made history with the opening of some of Philadelphia’s first green-designed, low-income housing.
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Little Green Giants: The Sheridan Street Houses are changing the face of affordable housing

The 1800 Block of Sheridan Street in North Philadelphia defies the expectations of what affordable housing looks like. The homes aren’t suburban style, semi-detached houses, or the 1950s high-rises they replaced.  Instead, you’ll find a block of sleekly designed, eco-friendly homes.
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A Natural Build: Re:Vision Architecture designs buildings that do the work, and teaches people why it matters

Scott Kelly, Re:Vision co-founder, steps away from the conference table in the firm’s Manayunk office and explains how they utilized the available light to create a comfortable environment. “There is very little daylight coming in through here,” he says as he stands near the north-facing window. There’s just a faint shadow behind him despite it being midday. The lights are off. “The reason you can see very well in this room is because the light levels are balanced.” He walks away from the window and his faint shadow follows him until he is below one of two narrow, tube-shaped skylights in the ceiling. “The light falls as you step away from the windows,” Kelly says, “but the two small tubes balance the light.”
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Education: Communal Table

The supermarket on 48th Street (between Spruce and Pine) has been vacant for almost a decade. But, thanks to $1.5 million in federal grants, the Enterprise Community Development Corporation is ready to break ground on the Center for Culinary Enterprise, the first food incubator of its kind in the nation, dedicated to training and employing local chefs starting in high school.
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Green Building: A Fine Vintage

Developer Anthony B. Miles grew up in the city’s Francisville neighborhood. “As a little child, I saw how vibrant the commercial corridor was,” he recalls. “There was a farmers’ market and local mom-and-pop businesses, and it was really safe.” Miles hopes to reinvigorate the community with the Vineyards, an ambitious LEED Platinum development featuring 60 residential units.
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Profile: Pet Project

Companion Pet Hospital cares for Philly’s furry friends and the environment.

While strolling along rowhouse-lined 5th Street in Pennsport, you might be surprised to pass the newly opened Companion Pet Hospital (CPH). The modern building, which sits between Dickinson and Tasker, stands out in this historic South Philly neighborhood. It houses a full-service veterinary hospital run by Dr. Cori Majeska and her husband, Josh Weber. 
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LEED Bill Passes City Council

In December, the City Council voted 17-0 to pass Bill No. 080025, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. The bill requires LEED-silver standards for all government construction projects over 10,000 square feet that are primarily funded by city capital dollars and controlled by the city. The measure is an important step towards reaching the Target 1 goal of Greenworks Philadelphia (reducing government energy consumption 30 percent by 2015), and could someday be extended to all city buildings.

Face Lift: The Curtis Institute of Music’s expansion project

For the last few months, observant Philadelphians strolling down the 1600 block of Locust Street have no doubt been startled. When you first catch a glimpse of the massive Curtis Institute of Music expansion project, it feels a little bit like you’ve stumbled onto a movie set.

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Architecture: What is a Green Roof?

by Claire Connelly

Philadelphia continues to receive national recognition for its progressive green initiatives. We’ve been ranked one of the 10 greenest cities in the nation and are making strides towards the top of that list. One notable facet of this citywide greening process is the growing number of green roofs sprouting up on both public and private buildings.
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