Lehigh Avenue was once a highly industrialized artery of Philadelphia, but as manufacturing has faded from the city, the parcels in this area have become vacant. This particular site was home to an existing junkyard. Unique site elements, including a 25’ abandoned rail line wall, 14’ of elevation change on site, rear rail tracks, electrical easements on the property, and a very unique “pump house” that pumped grain alcohol across the avenue, made the initial design process exciting. The goals of the project were to create a development community of apartment units with availability for large-scale commercial tenants on the site.
Based on the already singular monolithic wall on-site, four separate commercial residential mixed-use buildings provided the best balance of building efficiency and site proportions. Each building is separated to make room for intimate exterior public spaces in between commercial activities. The existing wall provided an internal opportunity on the site for an industrial garden-like corridor between the new buildings. Careful consideration was given to the site layout for pedestrians and vehicular movement in and out of the site.
The elevated rail line is a unique feature of the site, which is home to an iconic mural within Philadelphia. The mural will be preserved and restored with the new development with access from grade and within the buildings to the top of the rail line for an elevated walking path.
The exterior design of the new construction buildings pays homage to the industrial context the site sits within. Main façade materials include red brick, corrugated metal panels, ACM metal panels, large glass openings and railings, and siding. Large brick piers were developed in the façade to proportionally relate to existing warehouse construction. Exposing and hiding these brick elements through a rhythm on the façade creates visual movement and mixing of old and new materiality.
"[This] project would be a game changer for Lehigh Avenue, adding a ton of new residents to the area and using this sizable parcel in a much more desirable fashion than it’s been used for historically."
Four Apartment Buildings Would Improve Lehigh Avenue Naked Philly
"During the community meeting last month, some neighbors expressed concerns over a mural on a wall that sits along the East Lehigh Avenue edge of the property. [The developers] said they hoped to restore the mural due to its significance in the community."