Fidelity Trust Company – Marked as a Cafe, Market, and Community Start-Up
One building typology to survive the decimation of Philadelphia’s shopping avenues is the commercial bank, often with neoclassical architectural elements. Some of them are still used for their original purpose, but most others have been adapted for new uses—a pharmacy, fast food restaurant, and grocery among them. At 1019-1021 West Lehigh Avenue, adjacent to a former Philadelphia Savings Fund branch occupied by Citizens Bank: the former North Philadelphia branch of the Fidelity Trust Company. The brick building, with fluted plasters and a simple pediment above, was designed by architect J.B. Myers at the turn of the 20th century. The bank’s façade was altered in 1938 for one of two branches of North Philadelphia Federal Savings and Loan; the other was at 9507-13 Bustleton Avenue. Most recently, the Phoenix Training Center used the building as a substance abuse and recovery center. Given the immediate area’s concentration of churches, active storefronts, and a large daycare center just down the street, reusing the old Fidelity Trust Company for a cafe, fresh produce market, and community-based start-up work space would aid in stimulating a revival along Lehigh Avenue’s historic commercial corridor.
The main entry vestibule faces Lehigh Avenue and also provides access to the second floor by a set of stairs. We recommend seating at the front of the cafe to take advantage of the large existing windows. The original elevator will remain as it provides more immediate ADA access to the second floor. We place the counter straight ahead from the main entry. Here, a customer can also purchase groceries from the market. Large tables in the rear can accomodate groups for meetings. The west side of the building will have a men’s and women’s restroom as well as a a unisex, ADA-compliant restroom.
The second level will be co-working office space for start-ups that have a community-based mission. This level will be accessed by stairs or elevator, and we imagine installing a casual seating area between them. Everyone using the space would have a window view, a simple luxury often absent in urban offices. There will be workstations throughout the open floor plan with a large communal table and an enclosed conference room. Flanking either side of the conference room will be two ADA-compliant bathrooms. A kitchenette will be fitted in the north end of the building towards the exterior fire exit. The north windows provide a view overlooking the partial roof of the level below. If any of the tenants feel they need a change of scenery, they can relocate to the cafe below. The finished lower level of the old bank will be utilized for future expansion of the office space.
Nice to see some improvements in the old neighborhood, it sure can use them!
Fidelity Trust Company, established in 1866 as the Fidelity Insurance, Trust, & Safe Deposit Company, was just one of many business ventures by Clarence H. Clark, perhaps best known today for donating the land for West Philly’s Clark Park: http://hiddencityphila.org/2014/01/whats-in-a-name-clark-park/