Being Designblendz's largest project to date, 2157 E Lehigh Avenue is currently home to an active auto body junkyard between Consolidated Rail owned land faces and expanding residential district.  The absence of sustainable urban fabric along this corridor has led to the deterioration of publicly accessible infrastructure that connects Port Richmond and East Kensington.


This project proposes 4 mixed-use residential buildings with over 13,000 sf of ground floor commercial space and 278 residential dwelling units above.  Fronting the development is a series of public green spaces and multi-use paths that reconnect Lehigh Avenue to Tulip Street. 

In order to provide a sense of community, the development's design aims to provide balance in scale between larger commercial buildings and smaller developments in the area.  The building facades incorporate a modern twist on the industrial roots of the neighborhood with a mix of brick, metals, and glass.   Ample parking for both residents and commercial uses is proposed along the rear of the site and under buildings to screen from outdoor spaces.  The everyday pedestrian experience is elevated with heavily landscaped public spaces and large piazzas.


Through a series of questions and answers, Scott Woodruff, Director Architecture and Chris Class, Sr. Project Coordinator on the project, provide informative insight on the process and what they learned:

What are the 3 things you need to know when designing a project of this size?

  • Understand the goals of the client.
    • A project cannot start without first understanding what your client hopes to accomplish with the project. These values and desires outline the foundation for which decisions are made. Each additional variable, applying pressure to an idea, discovered through the design process will have to answer to these values.
  • Understand the values of the community.
    • The impact of a large scale development extends far beyond the boundaries of the site. It ultimately contributes to a larger scale architecture that forms the space a community exists within and its long term success is dependent upon its ability to address their needs.
  • Understand the site variables.
    • Site constraints are amongst the first variables that have influence on design decisions made to determine project feasibility. These constraints can range anywhere from zoning ordinances regulating thresholds for building density, height and permissible uses to existing site features and infrastructure. Each begins to mold the initial idea into shape.

What was one of your biggest challenges during this process?

  • Assigning value and order of magnitude to variables that influence the design. Speaking to this project specifically, the client desire for high residential unit yield pushing and pulling against the desires for large public spaces and high parking requirements of the site. It's a matter of finding balance in order to prevent one idea from causing the scale to tip.

Was it difficult to coordinate with different parties to gather information for the project?

  • It is not as difficult as it is complex. While architects only represent one specialized area of expertise required to complete a project, they are also responsible for the overlying management of consultants who specialize in other areas. Each provide a skill set and an area of knowledge that is required to complete a large project.

What are the requirements of the civic design review?

  • Upon being notified on the requirements of Civic Design Review from the Department of License and Inspections, an applicant must present a project overview before community organizations and the CDR Committee for the opportunity to receive advisory recommendations. This presentation may include items such as site plans and analysis, landscaping, floor plans and renderings.  To summarize, the purpose of Civic Design Review is to improve the quality of large projects in the city.  

What did you consider in designing the interior public spaces?

  • Site context was very important in designing public spaces in this neighborhood being in close proximity to Lehigh Avenue. This street, at 120 ft wide, is designed with the vehicle in mind. Finding ways to create more intimate spaces within the area was very challenging.





Designblendz understands that the collaboration of the architects, developers, and community is essential in a successful project design.  We are looking forward to the approval of this project in the coming months.  If you need assistance or advice on your upcoming project, we would love to take a look at it for you and guide you in the right direction.  Reach out for architectural design and service help.

About The Author

Hi, we're the Designblendz team! We blend overlapping design disciplines to raise the standard to design, visualize, and build virtual and physical environments.