Into The Frontier

Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

“You can think about the Navy Yard right now as a combination of its history and the idea of it as a frontier,” says Jeff Goldstein, of the architecture firm DIGSAU.

“That line is getting closer– and that’s when it’s going to get interesting,” says his partner Mark Sanderson.

Sanderson is right, as I report in tomorrow’s Inquirer, the pace and quality of urban design and development at the Navy Yard is rising rapidly. And it’s making believers out of economic development officials and members of the private sector, who speak with certainty about a future Broad Street Subway extension (and the likelihood that the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation will lift the present restriction in residential development there).

Glaxo’s Philadelphia HQ under construction Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

There is movement on both transit and housing. Starting next April, PIDC will operate a free (and public) 15 minute express bus from Market East Station to the Navy Yard every 20 minutes. The present SEPTA route 71 shuttle that runs from AT&T Station at the end of the Broad Street Line at Pattison Avenue into and around the Navy Yard will increase in frequency from every hour–which makes it essentially worthless–to every 15 minutes.

Officials from Liberty Property Trust and PIDC are back at work with Robert A.M. Stern Architects updating the 2004 Master Plan necessitated by the port expansion to the east and by the increasing desire to plan imaginatively for residential development. Inspired by the inlet near Urban Outfitters’ main building, planners are envisioning a canal as part of a mixed use marina district.

“We’ve been experimenting in everything we do,” says Liberty’s director of leasing and development for the Navy Yard. “It seems to be paying off.”

Future “Central Green” Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

The most movement so far is in the Corporate Center, where publicly-traded Liberty, known for architecturally conservative suburban office parks, keeps upping the ante on design. In the middle of the newly dug and paved Diagonal Boulevard, will be a “central green,” to be designed by Olin or New York’s Field Ops. Big names for what isn’t even yet a public space.

“So the Navy Yard has the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone as a driver,” says Berson, “it has location, it has real expertise in green and sustainable development, it has community–Navy Yard leagues and sports teams–and there was the sense that we needed to support all that by hiring incredibly talented designers.”

As Stern’s Glaxo HQ goes up, DIGSAU has two projects in the works down Diagonal Boulevard: headquarters for Iroko, a growing pharmaceutical firm, and a retail/cafe building meant to enhance street life. The Iroko building will be across from the new park and a Marriot Hotel, designed by Erdy-McHenry Architecture.

Iroko HQ Pile Caps Driven 50 Feet (and since cut off) Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

DIGSAU and Erdy-McHenry are actively orienting their buildings to the street and meanwhile Liberty is installing granite curbs and rain gardens and street lamps and establishing a strong design sensibility. Watch out: the frontier is about to be challenged by highly touted designers with progressive ideas on the urban possibility.

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Sixty Years Of Holiday Cheer At Wanamaker's

Sixty Years Of Holiday Cheer At Wanamaker’s

December 12, 2018  |  Last Light

Patrick Glennon gives us a look at the origins of a holiday tradition at the Wanamaker Building > more

City Archives Opens New HQ In Northern Liberties

City Archives Opens New HQ In Northern Liberties

December 6, 2018  |  Buzz

New digs in NoLibs for the Philadelphia City Archives. Michael Bixler has the details > more

Give a Gift, Get a Gift: 2018 Fund Drive Perks Are Here

Give a Gift, Get a Gift: 2018 Fund Drive Perks Are Here

December 6, 2018  |  Uncategorized, Vantage

Our annual fund drive is in full swing and this year's perks are better than ever, so have a look. Not to mention: all donations will be matched dollar for dollar by NewsMatch! > more

Architecture Trips The Light Fantastic in <em>Philly After Dark</em>

Architecture Trips The Light Fantastic in Philly After Dark

December 4, 2018  |  News

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia shines a light on local architecture at night with their illuminating exhibition, "Philly After Dark." Greg Prichard has this review > more

#GivingNEWSDay Is Here!

#GivingNEWSDay Is Here!

November 27, 2018  |  News

Double your donation to Hidden City today and help us get to the next level of journalism > more

When The United Nations <em>Almost</em> Chose Philly For Its HQ

When The United Nations Almost Chose Philly For Its HQ

November 23, 2018  |  Last Light

With the news of Philly losing Amazon HQ2 to New York and D.C., Patrick Glennon takes us back to 1945 when the City nearly convinced the United Nations to built its headquarters in Fairmount Park > more