Early Bok plans call for innovative maker space and ‘public living rooms’

An info-only presentation about the redevelopment of Bok Technical High School at 1901 S. 9th St. took place last night in front of a packed house at Southwark Elementary School.

Edward Bok Technical High School, via Wikipedia
Edward Bok Technical High School, via Wikipedia

Developer Lindsey Scannapieco of Scout LTD. was on hand to create an open dialogue with the community at a “very early stage” in the “multi-phase” redevelopment process. Early phases would look to “activate” various spaces in and around the property for a variety of uses including making, recreation, community and possibly even grocery (more on that a little later).

The main goals for the Bok plan seek to preserve the Art Deco architecture, reuse the “commanding” building and bring it back to its roots as a resource for makers and a community asset. Scannapieco mentioned that they will seek historic tax credits to preserve the property. Early plans include multiple “live/maker” spaces where innovation can take place as well as “affordable rental [residential] units” in the upper floors. This would include membership spaces, much like NextFab Studio, filled with equipment and tools. It would also include entrepreneurial co-working spaces for start-ups, tech companies, other small businesses or even job training. The idea would be to “improve the makers of this community,” said Scannapieco.

unnamed (3)
EPX Zoning Chair David Goldfarb talks to the crowd. Lindsey Scannapieco is seated in the middle. (Photo: James Jennings)

One of the main challenges is that Bok is comprised of roughly 340,000 square-feet of space, which Scannapieco explained is equivalent to 5.86 football fields. The ground floor alone is roughly 80,000 square-feet. Edward Bok, the school’s namesake, coined the term “living room” during his time as editor of Ladies Home Journal and Scout LTD. would pay homage to that idea to create a series of “public living rooms”. Scannapieco explained that could be opening up the roof terraces and auditorium for public access or finding a way to “energize” the street and ground floor experience through signage, lighting, green space or other public amenity. They want to show that Bok’s “heart is beating again,” said Scannapieco.

The parking issue was dealt with at the top of the meeting. Scannapieco said they are looking into using Bok’s existing basement as underground parking for the property to ease to burden on the nearby community. Early plans are to keep it “within the footprint” of the building.

Scout LTD. doesn’t yet own the building. They’re in the “due diligence” stage and expect to close on the property “within the new year”, according to Scannapieco. Once Scout LTD. owns the property, construction could start as soon as six months after closing, with an opening to the public in the temporary, early-activation phases coming 12 to 18 months after that.

It was a large (and largely positive) crowd at Southwark last night. Two ideas really piqued the crowd’s interest. Scannpieco mentioned that she would be open to Bok containing a grocery element in the retail space, specifically mentioning that she knows South Philly Food Co-Op is looking for a space. That isn’t to say it will happen, but it was mentioned. The second came from a resident, who explained that she would be interested to see Bok contain a “boutique hotel” element, saying there wasn’t anything like that in the vicinity.

It was a full house at Southwark for the Bok meeting. (Photo: James Jennings)
It was a full house at Southwark Elementary for the Bok meeting. (Photo: James Jennings)

 Were you at the meeting last night? What did you think of the presentation? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! 


5 thoughts on “Early Bok plans call for innovative maker space and ‘public living rooms’

  • November 20, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Love it! Recently had cause to walk by the building and really get a good look at it. It is a beautiful building with such great details that would NEVER be built today. The ideas Ms. Scannapieco has put forward so far seems great and the multi-stage development is a good way to ease the neighborhood into activating this property. Public living rooms! Can’t wait. Fingers crossed she gets all of her financing and can move forward.

  • November 20, 2014 at 10:52 am

    And it would seem that for all the gripes about how little the PSD received for this property that, in the end, the relatively low cost to purchase it is the only thing that allows for these maker spaces and public amenities to be economically feasible. At a more market-rate per square foot, I imagine the only thing that would have made financial sense would have been a high density of high-end apartments.

  • November 20, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I’d like to see the maker spaces and skills training offered free or at reduced to cost to PSD students who would have attended Bok.

    I love the idea of the S Philly Food Coop going in here.

    Would be great to have public use of the auditorium for performances and screenings, and even the hotel element similar to McMenamins adaptive re-use of the Kennedy School in Portland,OR: http://www.mcmenamins.com/KennedySchool

  • November 21, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I couldn’t attend the meeting but I’m very excited about what I’ve read about Scannapieco’s plans for the site. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood that need safe, inviting spaces and I can see all kinds of youth programming to help kids explore their creativity that would fit well with the vision. The enormous cultural diversity of the neighborhood could also be embraced with programming that welcomes immigrant families in to create as well.

Comments are closed.