Preschool, Rooftop Cafe Planned for South Philly’s Bok Technical High School

Project P.L.A.Y., a preschool based in Elkins Park, will bring an educational use back to the former school. It joins a makerspace, hair salon and possibly a cafe.

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

There was a lot of buzz in 2015 surrounding the various goings-on at the shuttered Edward Bok Technical High School, and it looks like recent leasing efforts will continue to keep it top-of-mind in the new year.

Having already signed on makerspace Hive76 and Fringe hair salon, newish owner Lindsey Scannapieco and her development company, Scout Ltd., has signed Project P.L.A.Y., a private nonprofit preschool based in Elkins Park, to open a second location inside the hulking school building at Ninth and Mifflin in September 2016.

“The community was kind of seeking more day-care options,” Scannapieco told Property. “I think it’ll be great.” 

In an effort to subsidize building overhead and support the local business within the space, Scannapieco said they have applied for a liquor license for a permanent rooftop cafe.

“You wouldn’t believe the bills for this building,” said the developer. “I think we were overwhelmed with how many people actually showed up this summer [to Le Bok Fin]. It offers an opportunity to support lower rents and the nonprofits within the building.”

Project P.L.A.Y. has been operating the Elkins Park location since 2005; owners Karen Chayot and Kathy Goldenberg said they have been looking for a second location in the city for about three years.

The preschool will be for children aged 27 months to 5 years, with 20 to 30 students anticipated for the classroom. “Classes are mixed-aged,” said Goldenberg. “Everyone is in one class together, and there might be different spaces where kids free-flow between different areas of activities, such as art or play.

“We sort of  view it like detox for kids. Everything is cardboard, paint, tape, wood, sticks, ribbons and loose parts. It’s really make your own adventure — no plastics or electronics.

We really like that because it feels like a family and the ages really go away,” adds Chayot, who is looking forward to working among the creative tenants at Bok. “We’re excited because it’s a maker space and gels with our constructivist-based philosophy. It really spoke to us to be in that space.”

Pricing for the preschool was not yet available, although Goldenberg did mention that it would vary, based on the amount of hours a child spends at school. For example, a day at the Elkins Park location typically runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The South Philly location would have part-time and full-time extended day hours running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., in an effort to meet the needs of busy parents.

In March, Scout Ltd. was awarded an endowment of $146,960 through the Knight Foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge to reimagine Bok’s outdoor spaces as a community engagement area called the “South Philly Stoop.” The school will be located on the first floor and have direct access to a new outdoor play space on South Ninth Street, which is currently being designed. Scannapieco said that it would be open for community use after school hours.

Chayot and Goldenberg plan to roll out the plans for the school at an open house held on January 30th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Scannapieco came under some fire this summer after Le Bok Fin, a summer pop-up restaurant and bar on the rooftop named after Bok’s former culinary program, was seen by some as not being sensitive towards the needs of long-term residents, and fueling gentrification in East Passyunk Crossing.

“That was really hard, really hard,” admitted Scannapieco. “We have had a lot of interest in the building and have happy tenants. We’re really excited to watch it evolve.”

“We visited last August because we knew what their vision was going in,” said Chayot. “We didn’t even really know about the roof [and Le Bok Fin]. I felt bad for them, because we had heard their vision and it sounded so positive and encouraging.”

Scannapieco said that Bok currently has filled out the first floor space with over 15 tenants, and a press release states that 75 percent are residents of South Philly and over 45 percent live in the 19148 ZIP code. Over the next year, an additional 35,000-square-feet of leasable space will be opened up, “and the process has begun for zoning of the historic auditorium and gymnasium for community events such as local sports leagues, fundraisers and private events,” reads the release.

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