INFILL Philadelphia: Industrial Sites explored the possibilities and realities of reusing former factories and underutilized manufacturing sites in an effort to offer more options for small-scale artisans and advanced manufacturing to contribute to a diverse, resilient Philadelphia economy.
Philadelphia was once known as the “Workshop of the World.” Today, abandoned industrial sites provide only a narrative sketch of the industrial boom that significantly shaped the growth and structure of many urban neighborhoods throughout the 1920s. Underutilized space, architectural remnants and unproductive vacant land characterize much of what remains. How can the city restore the competitive edge of underused industrial spaces and improve job capacity, opportunity and employment for neighborhood residents?
We are left with fragments of that past — impacted soil (primarily by petrochemicals), ground water and river water contaminated by seepage, topography altered by the necessity of access and storage, the river’s edge reconfigured. Yet still there is a sense of place — of subtle elevation change, of “river-presence,” of city. The variety and broad spatial vocabulary of existing structures is surprising. Size, scale, rawness, bare-bones-necessity-ness of materials, of light, of need for a particular use give rise to quietly amazing constructions.
The terrain is clear and suggests the following:
Maintain and use topography
Maintain and re-purpose selected remnants of the industrial past
Recognize and augment remediation already in progress
Integrate stormwater treatment for run-off
Create bioretention systems that maximize the natural capabilities of the site
Strategically layer the site to naturally separate and intentionally integrate co-existing functions
An abandoned railway right-of-way bisects the site, threading through existing oil storage containment walls and dropping thirty feet from the northern bridges to water level at the south, creating an upper plateau and a lower shore zone. These containment walls are used for both stormwater retention and for in site remediation of contaminated soils. Once an infiltration barrier and soil have been placed, these walls are then capped to serve as a plinth for new structures. Buildings are located near the edge of the upper “plateau” allowing for water and city views and primary entry. Parking is in small, discreet lots. Service vehicles have access to railway sidings and to building loading docks on the interior of the site, out of view of the public path. The railway right-of-way is re-used for the Schuylkill River Trail, bringing residents from Center City through the site to a new public launch, a plaza at Botanic Avenue, and Bartram’s Garden to the south. The existing City parcel at the end of 49th Street is re-purposed for public vehicular river access on the lower Schuylkill.
A stair tower and ramp at the Gray’s Ferry Bridge provides immediate access to the trail, river and proposed facilities for the West Philadelphia community and the Institutions which are a short walk away.
Our response to this project is a request to weigh more fairly what we consider important, what we should keep and re-use and what we should open up for new things and new ideas.
Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) PROGRAM
With its close proximity to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Drexel University, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and The Wistar Institute, this site may be particularly attractive to entrepreneurial biotechnology and life science firms where manufacturing is a knowledge-generating activity integral to product innovation. This type of advanced manufacturing (i.e. clinical trial and medical equipment development and fabrication) allows for the custom tailoring of devices to specific individuals (i.e. doctors and patients) and/or applications very quickly. Over time this regional specialization in technical applications and product development can provide a source of regional advantage. This site, with its excellent access to road, rail, and air travel, allows additional training, observation, development and further specialization to regional, national and international doctors and patients. Additionally, this site is seen as an attractive home to these life science incubator enterprises for as they become established, they will have the ability to expand in place.
The development of this site is not meant to replicate the suburban campuses that many medical incubators have aspired to, but rather it has a bias to urban living and working. It is meant to keep employers and employees in the city who want to capitalize on the infrastructure of an urban environment.
Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Thomas Dalfo
CLCMA, Charles Loomis, Chariss McAfee, Caitlin Martin
with Gavin Riggall
TRC Engineering Services, Mitchell Bormack
Viridian Landscape Studios, Tavis Dockwiller
and assistance from Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects
Jonathan Alderson, Jesse Forrester, Kwatee Stamm
Please contact the Schulykill River Development Corporation (SRDC) for the current plans for the Schuylkill River Trail extension to Bartram’s Garden.