“Unapologetically Contemporary” Tower Seeks Architectural Pulse In North Philly

 

Wanamaker student residence | Image: WRT

Wanamaker student residence | Image: WRT

In a strong sign that Philadelphia real estate developers are beginning to find market value in bold design and in creating social spaces, a $100 million 14 story residential “unapologetically contemporary” tower is advancing on 12th Street and East Montgomery Avenue adjacent to Temple University’s campus. The building is part of a multi-phase development by the Goldenberg Group of the block that was home to the Wanamaker Middle School, which closed in 2005. Future phases of the project, potentially starting in 2015, will build out the edges of the remaining two and a half acres of the block to create a strong connection to the street and an open courtyard inside.

“From the beginning of this project, Ken Goldenberg was saying, ‘I won’t build it if it’s not cutting edge’,” said Goldenberg director of development Kevin Trapper. “This project is not just about maximizing real estate but about the transformative nature of development we do. We take this to heart.”

Project construction site at 12th and E. Montgomery | Photo: Peter Woodall

Construction underway at 12th Street and E. Montgomery Ave. | Photo: Peter Woodall

Goldenberg acquired the site in 2008 in collaboration with Bright Hope Baptist Church’s Bridge of Hope Community Development Corporation, which will receive proceeds from the project. The developer initially examined potential reuses for the Wanamaker School, but found they couldn’t make efficient or economically viable use of the post-War building.

The tower, which was designed by Antonio Fiol-Silva, a principal architect at the firm Wallace Roberts and Todd, is one a spate of privately developed apartment buildings for university students at Temple, Penn, and Drexel that are meant to complement on campus housing. At both Drexel and Temple, schools transforming their campuses from commuter to residential, demand for housing on or near campus is growing rapidly. “The campus is transforming from drive up, run into class, and run back to your car kind of a place. That’s an exciting change,” said Trapper. The Wanamaker project, which will open in fall 2014, is going up as Temple completes a 1,275 bed residential tower of its own a few blocks away.

Both of those towers, observers say, will substantially improve housing standards available to Temple students. Just as critically, they amount to a substantial upgrade in the quality of architectural materials and ideas about urban living.

Wanamaker student residence | Image: WRT

Wanamaker Tower | Image: WRT

“It’s a structure that needs to speak to students looking for places that are exciting–that have a pulse,” said Fiol-Silva, who is also the architect of the nearby residential development Paseo Verde and of the Live Arts Festival building at Delaware Avenue and Race Street.

A key to appealing to young people, said Fiol-Silva, is the ability of the building, which is fractured into two sections and pulled off the sidewalk on an angle by as much as 40 feet, to draw people into its social spaces, creating “an almost festive place.” In addition to 238 apartments for 832 residents, the tower will have 1,100 square feet of retail, including restaurants–none inked yet–with terraces and outdoor seating. In fitting with WRT’s multidisciplinary design practice, Fiol-Silva is an urban designer and a planner. He said WRT has paid careful attention to landscape design and “how the building meets the ground.”

Wanamaker student residence | Image: WRT

Wanamaker student residence | Image: WRT

A “cloud” of metal lattice will draw people into the building, “back to front, inside and out,” he said.

Image of model: WRT

Image of model: WRT

But the biggest draw, the architect thinks, is the strong use of color–in this case red–on the building’s aluminum composite facade. “How do you evoke Temple’s trademark color and create something fresh, unapologetically colorful, unapologetically contemporary?” After completing some 100 color studies–Fiol-Silva said that at various stages in design the building has been many different colors and monochromatic–the choice of gradations of red “tips its hat, making a playful association to Temple. It’s Temple but it’s not Temple. It’s looser, more free spirited.”

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."



6 Comments


  1. Oh my god this building is beautiful.

  2. I am a little surprised, some of the project Temple has going on now are drab but this one from the renderings looks pretty good. I think Temple is over due for this expansion so it looks like they are doing well so far. I think the only drawback (for some people), is that the boldness of the colour choices don’t really fit in with the area so some may think that is a poor choice but i think a statement like that is a good thing for Temple.

  3. The Edge/Radian meets some 70’s paneling. Don’t see this looking very contemporary in 15 years, but I welcome the foot traffic this brings.

  4. Oh yay… open space. There weren’t enough barren grassy patches around that part of the city collecting McDonalds bags and dirty newspapers already.

  5. Would love to see some night renderings of this… *hoping that the first floor glows* ūüôā

Trackbacks

  1. Philadelphia 2035 - Page 116 - City-Data Forum

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Design Coalition Aims To Bridge The Old-New Divide

Design Coalition Aims To Bridge The Old-New Divide

October 12, 2018  |  Walk the Walk

Move over Miami, the Philadelphia Design District is getting ready for some time in the spotlight. The coalition of gallery owners, artisans, and tech startups want to transform Old City into a hive of contemporary design, while preserving the neighborhood's historic character. Joe Brin takes a look inside the idea with co-founder Eugenie Perret > more

Germantown Boys & Girls Club Compromise Brings Peace To Penn Street

Germantown Boys & Girls Club Compromise Brings Peace To Penn Street

October 9, 2018  |  News

Owners of Germantown Boys and Girls Club reach an agreement with preservationists after two years of heated debate. Starr Herr-Cardillo has the news > more

Shakespeare & Co. Brings Old Bank Back To Life

Shakespeare & Co. Brings Old Bank Back To Life

October 4, 2018  |  Buzz

Manhattan-based bookstore and café revives an old banking storefront in Rittenhouse Square. Michael Bixler takes a look > more

Historic Districts Make A Comeback

Historic Districts Make A Comeback

October 2, 2018  |  Vantage

After nearly a decade of lost opportunities, creative new strategies emerge for protecting Philadelphia's historic neighborhoods > more

Bearing Witness To Destruction On Christian Street

Bearing Witness To Destruction On Christian Street

September 28, 2018  |  Vantage

This summer contributor Mickey Herr recorded the slow demolition of Christian Street Baptist Church from the beginning to the end. In this photo essay she shares what it was like to watch a 128-year-old neighborhood landmark being reduced to rubble > more

New Audio Archive Gives Voice To Philly Immigration History

New Audio Archive Gives Voice To Philly Immigration History

September 26, 2018  |  News

Relive Philly public history in high fidelity through those who came before us. Historian Janneken Smucker gives us a listen inside the inner workings of the digital oral history project, "Philadelphia Immigration" > more