Civic Design Review committee approves new Penn Medicine tower

The Civic Design Review gave the green light at yesterday's meeting for all three mixed-use design proposals, including a Penn Medicine tower, a dormitory at University of the Sciences, and an apartment complex in East Kensington.

Woods Square—a mixed-use development including 178 apartments, office, and retail—at 2621-67 Frankford Avenue first went to the CDR in July. The committee voted to continue the design review process for a second round, and the developers returned for another presentation this month.

 Rendering by Robert Anthony Peralta Architect

One of the biggest concerns of the design proposal this time around concerned Amber Street, which faces a series of rowhouses. Community members questioned whether driving traffic along Amber—entrance to parking would be on this side of the property—was the best option for the narrow street.

Committee member Cecil Baker also suggested enlarging the lobby on this side to create a more generous entry space, potentially at the cost of parking spots and office space. The committee also suggested closing one end of the parking lot to reduce congestion and eliminate a curb cut.

The developers said they would consider the committee's suggestions.


Perkins + Will presented the design proposal for Penn Medicine's 3600 Civic Center Boulevard 18-story tower. The building, which will house hospital staff, will be a white, pre-cast concrete structure built in two phases, architect Robert Goodwin said.

In order to enliven Civic Center Boulevard and create an active presence along the street, the designers proposed an entry-way plaza that will be open to the public and lead to a two-story atrium lobby with a public cafe. A daycare will also be on this level that will include a brightly-colored outdoor space for kids with native planting, Goodwin said.

The design committee praised the design for its decision to make the front lobby open to the public.

"The use of the main floor for the public is just great," said committee member Michael Johns. "People will be able to meander and learn—it's just very nice."

Johns suggested making the two green roof tops accessible to the hospital staff and ultimately the committee voted to conclude the CDR process.


The University of Sciences' proposed dormitory at 4514-22 Woodland Avenue also presented to the CDR for the first time. Design Collective is behind the design of the mixed-use building, which will sit on the site of the shuttered Alexander Wilson Public School.

Architect Nick Mansperger said the goal of the design was to create a building that "invites the community to participate." With that idea, they designed a C-shaped building with a public courtyard in the center surrounded by classrooms and retail on the ground level.

The mostly brick building will be six stories tall and feature study rooms on the corners that will be lit 24/7, said Mansperger. In addition, they plan to repurpose the murals currently on the school building. One mural that runs along 46th and features neighbors who still live across the street, will be converted into a translucent graphic that will be backlit against the classroom windows.

The project will require six zoning variances, but Cecil Baker said in this case that's a good thing: "The extra height [of the building] isn't an issue because of the great public space. This is what zoning is meant to encourage."


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