Groundbreaking on the Divine Lorraine, Philadelphia's luxury hotel turned graffiti artist playground, begins this afternoon. Completed in 1894, Willis G. Hale's 10 story Lorraine Apartments featured state-of-the-art technology (electric lights), and bourgeois amenities (a kitchen staff that cooked for the tenants, eliminating the need for household servants). At the beginning of the 20th century, the apartments were converted into a hotel. The Reverend Jealous Divine bought the structure in 1948, and opened the country's first integrated hotel. Abandoned in 1999, the structure steadily decayed, battered by urban explorers, graffiti artists, and sixteen Philadelphia winters. Last year, The Architect's Newspaper explored the property from the ground up with developer Eric Blumenfeld. Blumenfeld plans to turn the $44 million property into a hotel. If the hotel's capsule collection on Instagram is any indication, the Divine Lorraine should receive an extensive aesthetic makeover from the redevelopment team. Philadelphia firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) is spearheading the renovation.
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In 2016, Jersey City’s population is set to exceed Newark’s. With an influx of newcomers, city officials have pioneered a tax incentive plan that encourages new development while actively combating segregation by income. While these goals usually conflict, officials are confident that the program, Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), will meet the needs of all stakeholders. Introduced in 2013 by newly elected Mayor Steven M. Fulop, the plan spreads affordable and market rate housing evenly throughout the city by tying development incentives to the relative desirability of given neighborhoods. Though there's been no development under PILOT yet, as of now, new developments can qualify for the program. New Jersey property taxes are one of the nation's highest. Like most tax abatements, the objective of PILOT is to encourage economic activity by easing the developer's tax burden to incentivize denser development. The city partnered with researchers at New York University and Columbia to study the city's housing market intensively at the neighborhood level. According to Ryan Jacobs, Jersey City's Director of Communications, Jersey City operates under the philosophy that "any improvement to [the] land is a good idea." Jacobs critiqued the "tale of two cities" dichotomy that prevails in many discussions around balancing affordability and development. In Jersey City, he states that "that choice is a false choice, it's more communal than that. It's not healthy to have one part of the city that is growing and one part that isn't." PILOT divides the city into four tiers, each with a different tax incentive. Tiers 1 and 2, highly developed areas, receive property tax abatements for a shorter amount of time. Tier 1, for example, has a 10 year property tax abatement, and a mandate that 10 percent of newly constructed units be affordable housing. Tier 4, by contrast, has a 15 percent affordable housing mandate and a 30 year property tax abatement. The city wants to attract concentrated investment in Tiers 3 and 4. Consequently, these zones have longer tax abatements. Regardless of their designation, there is a mandate in each tier to build affordable housing. Jersey City adopted HUD's standards of affordable housing to encompass individuals making 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and below. Tax abatements are tailored to individual neighborhoods. A special target is the revitalization of Journal Square, once the commercial heart of the city, and now a neighborhood in need of reinvestment. Currently, downtown and waterfront districts, like the 1980s New Urbanist Port Liberté, attract new residents who can afford median monthly rents greater than $2,000, while inland neighborhoods garner comparatively less investment. According to the 2010 Census, approximately 19,000 Jersey City units (29 percent) rent for greater than $1,500 per month. Port Liberté, with its canal, bike paths, and dense residential clusters, has a median household income of $100,000, compared to the citywide median of $46,813. The city intends to make the affordable housing application process as transparent as possible. Per state law, developers of market rate housing that receive tax abatements must contribute $1,500 per residential unit to the city's affordable housing fund. The fund has received $15 million dollars since 2003. These proposed developments pictured here serve as examples of projects that could be executed under PILOT. The two images at top are of a waterfront development that received an abatement (though not through PILOT). The complex is 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable, and the first mixed income development in that district in 30 years. On Montgomery Street, 116 new affordable units are planned (an additional 10 units will be market rate). The complex is designed by Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT).
Zinc and glass unite riverfront pavilion and pump house.In 2009, just as construction on its Principal Riverwalk pavilion was about to begin—and following years of funding-related stops and starts—Des Moines-based Substance Architecture received some unexpected news. The firm was commissioned to design a second building, a pump house, on an abutting plaza. At that point, recalled Substance's Paul Mankins, it had been about three years since the firm started work on the pavilion. "There was some discussion in the office about whether the pump house should be an independent piece, or whether it should be formally related to the pavilion," he said. "Our decision was that the pavilion would be stronger if it had this piece as a foil." Using a limited material palette of zinc and glass accented by Jun Kaneko's artwork, Substance succeeded in creating a dialogue between the two small riverfront buildings, despite their differing programs and dates of origin. The pavilion's form was shaped as much by practical circumstances as by a particular aesthetic vision. The Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) master plan for the Principal Riverwalk, a joint development of the City of Des Moines and the Principal Financial Group, determined the wedge shape of the site. "We're not a firm that typically does triangular buildings," noted Mankins, "but the inner workings of the floodwall were already in place before we started." The architects were further constrained by a tight budget. Rather than distribute the program across a single floor, said Mankins, "we were able to convince WRT to manipulate the plaza, tip it up to stack the program." The move cut the pavilion's footprint in half and allowed Substance to push the service functions down into the plaza itself, thus decreasing the cost of the envelope. The pavilion's focal element is its glass-enclosed cafe, stacked directly atop the cast-in-place concrete box housing the service functions. The architects created an outdoor seating area by pulling the building ten feet away from the floodwall. This gesture, too, was in part a pragmatic one, as it "eased conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Mankins. "The end result produces an exterior terrace, which is fantastic. But it was not purely a design-driven decision; it was also a political decision." To mitigate solar gain, Substance shrouded the pavilion in folded black zinc that serves as both roof and wall. A broad overhang to the south provides shade in summer without sacrificing the view downriver. On the west side of the cafe, the zinc facade is louvered. "It's basically like an enormous blind with the fins oriented north," said Mankins. "It allows you to view directly north, which is upriver, unobstructed, but it blocks the western sun." The second project, the pump house, entered the mix following the flood of 2008. "We have a storm and sanitary sewer system that's cutting-edge technology for 1750," quipped Mankins. After two 500-year floods in less than two decades, the city decided it was high time to upgrade its flood management system. The pump station designed by Substance contains three pumps, one of which already existed. "There are other pump stations in Des Moines, typically just cinderblock walls around an emergency generator and several propeller pumps," explained Mankins. The architects took a different tack, echoing the neighboring pavilion with a two-part design. They encased the existing pump in translucent glass, then wrapped a triangular zinc wall around the two new pumps and associated components. Below the pump station's zinc walls, Substance used a type of Minnesota limestone deployed by WRT throughout the Principal Riverwalk development. Substance had already worked with artist Jun Kaneko on several pieces for the pavilion. The firm returned to ask for a final artwork, a multicolored glass mural. "When we were designing the pump station, we always wanted this glass mural," said Mankins. The designers collaborated with Kaneko and Germany's Derix Glasstudios on the mural itself, then engaged C3 Lighting Solutions and Commonwealth Electric to design and install an LED system for internal illumination. With the language of limestone uniting them with the rest of the Principal Riverwalk, said Mankins, the pavilion and pump station appear as "two objects placed on plazas formed by flood walls." Their relationship to one another is a (happy) marriage of opposites, thanks to the architects' strategic use of zinc and glass. "One is closed, the other open," said Mankins. "But they're clearly related to one another."
For the past 15 years, the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia has been sitting vacant at the corner of Broad and Fairmount. The 10-story building, which opened in 1894 as luxury apartments, was once a towering symbol of wealth. Today, it is a graffiti-covered shell of its former self—but that could soon change. A local developer is finalizing plans to bring the building back to life. Before that happens, AN was allowed inside—and on top of—the Divine Lorraine to see the space in all its tagged and gutted glory. First, some history. The Willis G. Hale–designed building opened as the Lorraine Apartments, but was converted into a high-end hotel at the turn of the century. The Lorraine operated as such until Reverend Jealous Divine, the founder of the International Peace Mission Movement, bought the building in 1948. He changed the name of the building to include his own name, and opened what is said to be the first racially-integrated hotel in Philadelphia, and maybe the country. The Reverend has been described as both a religious leader and a cult leader. The fact that Jim Jones tried to take over the Movement after the Reverend's death in 1965 points toward the latter. By 1999, the Divine Lorraine had been completely abandoned. In the following years, many tried to give the building new use, but never found success. What is happening now is different. With the help of a $31.5 million loan from a real estate lender, local developer Eric Blumenfeld plans to transform the Lorraine into 127 apartments, restaurants, retail space, and, possibly, a hotel. When the transformation of the Divine Lorraine is complete, its iconic rooftop sign will be lit again with neon. The terms of that loan are expected to be finalized within 30 days, and construction will likely take up to two years. Local firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) is overseeing the project. When AN visited the building, crews were already busy blasting graffiti off Lorraine's skin, and construction lighting was hanging throughout the interior. A structural report on the building had been completed the day before.
A new affordable housing project designed by Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) is in the works for Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) seniors in the City of Brotherly Love—it will be the second of its kind in the nation. Hidden Philadelphia reported that construction on this 56-unit complex, called the John C. Anderson Apartments, has already commenced and will be located on 13th Street right in the heart of the Washington Square West neighborhood, a part of Philadelphia that has long been home to a gay and lesbian community. The development is named after city councilman John C. Anderson who was "instrumental in the passage of Philadelphia’s civil rights bill for sexual minority people." Developer Pennrose Properties, along with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund and Gay News publisher Mark Segal, have spearheaded this $19.5 million development. The project will provide housing for low-income seniors 62 years or older. The six-story building will consist of one-bedroom units, 1,800-square-feet of commercial space, a green courtyard, and a partial green roof.
The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe, entering its 17th year of performances, will celebrate the groundbreaking of its new 10,000-square-foot headquarters on February 25th. The arts organization has purchased a former fire hydrant pumping station, built over a century ago, right near the Old City and the Delaware River waterfront. Partner Antonio Fiol-Silva of landscape architecture firm WRT (formerly Wallace Roberts Todd), will lead the renovation. The new headquarters will include a 225-seat theater, a rehearsal studio, a gastro-pub style restaurant, an outdoor plaza for performances and outdoor dining, administrative offices, and a permanent festival hub.