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Project Roundup: Week of 12/14/15

Since it's been a couple of weeks since we last posted, there are lots of projects to talk about this time. 


One thing we've been doing more and more of is zoning plans. Whenever a property owner wants to use a building in a way that isn't normally permitted, they need to get a zoning variance. (I've written about this before: here and here.) Sometimes that's by design, where a client wants to build say, a commercial building on a lot zoned for residential use. Often, though, a property owner will be looking for a variance to "legalize" a preexisting condition on a property they just bought. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting this beauty in the Cedar Park section of West Philadelphia in order to draw up plans to legalize a four-unit apartment building that is zoned to have only three units.

A nice twin on Springfield Avenue (we're working on the one on the right)

Historical Commission

But the fun doesn't just stop with zoning. Sometimes you want to do work on a property that's been designated as historic. In that case, anything you do to the exterior needs a sign off from the Historical Commission. We have one project that falls into that category, as well. It's a building near Logan Square that was once a single-family home, but will now be converted to luxury apartments. The windows are original, and we will have them restored to their former glory (and will take down the awful aluminum storm windows that are covering them up!). Once we have all the proper documentation together for the windows, along with the part of the back of the building that needs to be rebuilt, I can take everything to the Commission for their input.

Front elevation. This building is part of a whole row that is historically designated.

A close-up of one of those giant ground-floor windows--that trim is original!


In renovation news, we are making progress on a nine-unit apartment building in East Germantown. This building has been underloved for some time, and its new owner really wants to make it an asset to the neighborhood. We'll be doing a full interior renovation, as well as sprucing up the exterior with new roof, windows, and a covered porch.

Existing conditions on High Street near the former Germantown High SchoolHere's a quick sketch of what we're proposing for the front. The downspout will be moved, and the metal-encased brackets around the eaves will be restored to their original condition, or removed. The large front porch will be taken over with planters on the sides and a roof in the center to provide residents with protection from the weather.

Sketch of the proposed exterior

New Construction

And as always, there's lots going on in the new-construction world. We visited Arizona Street in East Kensington to take a look at progress. We have one three-building development there which is almost complete (and all three units have sold already!). You've seen photos of that one before, but I'm happy to report that the metal panel on the front is finally complete.

Front elevation on Arizona StreetWhen you look up from the sidewalk, you get this view

We also saw our project on Coral Street (right around the corner from the Arizona Street project) get started. After a very brief period as a hole in the ground and then some concrete foundation walls, the framing is barreling ahead.

From 1) vacant lot to 2) hole in the ground to 3) foundations to 4) framing, in three weeksAnd here's a comparison of where we are today, next to the final drawing. We're doing a more traditional front than we usually do, with a nice cornice and arch-topped windows. On the side where there won't be windows, we're doing a herringbone panel that pays homage to the numerous "ghost windows" often found on factories in the neighborhood.

Today, and the future.And last but not least, we broke ground on a new residence on Tilton Street in Olde Richmond. This will be 2,700 square feet--a fairly large (for us) house--since the lot is nearly 22 feet wide. (Normally we work on lots between 14' and 17'.) It's not much to look at yet, but we'll keep updating you on its progress.

The black stuff you can see on the outside of the concrete walls is a waterproofing layerCheck back here for more updates, coming soon!



Project Roundup: Week of 10/26/15

It was a busy week here. Wednesday was a trip up to New York to watch a first-year graduate student review at Columbia University. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures of the students' work, but I did take some photos of the room we were in. Back when I was visiting colleges with my parents, my dad made the observation that architecture buildings always seemed to be the worst on campus. I didn't see much of the building I was in, but the specific room was definitely underloved. Here's an example of the kind of delicate, thoughtful detailing I observed:

If the review hadn't been so interesting, I would have probably spent more time trying to come up with a backstory for these things. But fortunately, the students kept my attention. Congratulations to the students and their professor, Adam Snow Frampton of Only If, on all the progress.

After returning to Philadelphia, I made the rounds of projects in progress:

2028-32 East Arizona Street

Last week you only got to see the exterior of this project, but the real excitement this week is happening inside. Each of the three houses are in different stages of completion:

Here, sprinklers are going in. Insulation just went in this week, too.

Next door, drywall is up and you can really start to get a feel for what the completed spaces will be like. Here, you can see the sunlight coming in through the double-height glass in the dining room and washing across the kitchen wall.

In the finished basement, the electricians are working hard to finalize all of the circuiting for lighting and outlets.

On the second floor, the hardwood flooring is in and the painters are working away.

2136 East Firth Street

This one is a total gut-rehab of an existing three-story rowhouse. It's right next door to our soon-to-start-construction Parish House project (more on that in a few weeks). Here, you can see that insulating foam has been applied to the exterior of the old brick walls, and will soon be ready for an application of stucco. The system provides good air sealing and a little extra insulation to the overall wall assembly. 

On the horizon, we'll be working on a house for this tiny 13' x 43' lot in the Kensington section of Philadelphia (it's the one in the middle):

See you next week!



Project Roundup: Week of 10/19/15

Hi, everyone. Well, we've been very busy around here, and haven't been so good at posting. If you spend any time over on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds (which I'm sure you do), you know that we do construction site visits every week, and often post pictures from there. We thought it would be nice to put some project photos here, too, along with a bit more description of what's going on, useful links, etc. So, here goes:

2028-32 East Arizona Street

2028-32 East Arizona Street

This project is getting fairly close to completion. This is three single-family homes, located in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. The neighborhood is an exciting one, and is seeing a lot of redevelopment now. The grain of the neighborhood is varied, with lots of different lot sizes and uses. This gives the neighborhood a "homogeneous heterogeneousness", meaning that difference is the norm. Unlike some other neighborhoods, this one has lots of different sizes, styles, and materials, and is a great place for a little experimentation.

In our case, we have a red-brick wall providing the background for projecting bays and recessed indents running in vertical ribbons on the facades. The bay cladding is just going up now; it will be a dark gray metal panel. You can see the front is currently in various stages of completion (close-up below). Inside, it's much the same; in the house on the right, drywall has gone in and other finish work is just beginning, while in the house on the left, the utilities are still being installed.

2028-32 East Arizona Street - Elevation Detail

1321-27 North 7th Street

1321-27 North 7th Street

Here's another project that's almost complete. Located just north of Girard Avenue in the South Kensington section of Philadelphia, this project is three new three-unit condominium buildings next to a two-unit renovation. By removing and rebuilding the existing (nearly collapsed) facade of the old building (the gray one at the far left of the group), we were able to design a rebuild that ties in visually with the other, new facades.

These units are now on the market. You can see more info, including professional photos, here. The top-floor unit of building 1321 has been staged for the photos, so you can really get a feel for what the units will be like. The top-floor units are my favorite, because we were able to get very large (4' x 8') skylights over the kitchens, and the units also have access to roof decks with great views of the skyline and Ben Franklin Bridge.

Kitchen at 1321 North 7th Street

So, what else?

We've got all sorts of other things going on. Of course, there are other projects under construction that aren't featured here. And with winter quickly approaching, the rush is on to get building permits and start excavation and concrete work before the ground freezes. Currently, we have several projects in various stages of permit review with the goal of starting before Thanksgiving.

On the horizon we have a few new-construction projects to get design started on, as well as the full renovation of a beautiful old apartment building in Germantown, a restaurant in Point Breeze, and an adaptive reuse of a former varnish factory in Holmesburg. Keep your eyes here for more updates!