Trendy rooftop spot Bok Bar, perched eight stories high atop the former Bok Tech building at 8th and Mifflin Streets, reopens for for a third season on Thursday, May 25 — and they’ll be serving up dumplings and a slew of pop-up dinners all summer long.
Real estate developers tend to have a funny relationship to politics. On the one hand, they often flood local elections with campaign donations and relentlessly lobby for policies that will make their work easier and more profitable. On the other hand, they need friends in government in order to make deals and get important approvals, so their public political statements are usually diplomatic, calculated to achieve a certain result without offending anyone powerful.
President-elect Donald Trump, who started his career as a real estate developer, fits that mold in some ways and smashes it in others. While his pronouncements are calculated for advantage, they are also routinely offensive, though more often to the powerless than the powerful. And in some respects—his bombast, his ego, his unembarrassed pursuit of profit and tacky opulence—he provides the world with a cartoon picture of the stereotypical real estate man.
I was curious how some of Philadelphia’s more prominent developers felt about having one of their own in the White House, so I asked a few. Philadelphia is, of course, a Democratic Party town, and for the most part, these developers’ comments echoed the sort of restrained, cautious acceptance we’ve seen from prominent Democratic officials in the wake of the election. But in many instances, I detected an undercurrent of despair.
“The public perception of real estate developers, as a result of Trump’s ascension to the Presidency, has already changed,” said Ken Weinstein, a Germantown developer and owner of the Trolley Car Diner. “More than a few people, upon learning that I am a developer, have already asked if I pay taxes, if I stiff my subcontractors and how many times I have filed for bankruptcy (yes, no and zero). Most developers are ethical business people so using Trump as an example of a typical real estate developer is not accurate.”
“I think he has developed many abysmal projects with little thought given to the value of community impact or design,” said Lindsey Scannapieco, who owns the former Bok Technical High School, one of the biggest buildings in South Philadelphia, which not been free of controversy. “However, I hope that his push on infrastructure investment provides momentum for thoughtful and important re-investments that create a more equitable landscape across the country.” Read more »
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.”
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For the first time in recent years, the former Edward W. Bok Technical School in South Philadelphia has been ringing with the sound of excited voices. We’re talking of course about the temporary (and partially controversial) Le Bok Fin summer beer garden on Bok’s roof, a pop-up that served, in our eyes, as a taste of what’s to become of the property.
Here’s a refresher: Scout Ltd., the company headed by developer Lindsey Scannapieco, purchased the 340,000-square-foot Art Deco building more than a month ago and opened Le Bok Fin shortly thereafter. If you’ll recall, this past March saw Scout endowed with a portion ($146,960) of the $11 million Knight Cities Challenge award by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The purposes of the grant? To help push along Scout’s South Philly’s Stoop project, a plan to transform the vacant space surrounding Bok into a new “community living room” that brings neighbors together, inspires connection, and “engages people with neighborhood history.” (Of course, the Bok redevelopment is even bigger than that.)
Now, the first piece of the South Philly’s Stoop plan is unfolding.
There’s a sleeping giant on the corner of 9th and Mifflin in South Philly. Wait, scratch that. The former Edward Bok Technical High School, simply known as Bok, actually takes up the entire block between 8th and 9th on Mifflin Street. Though the hulking school has been vacant for a few years, Lindsey Scannapieco and her development company, Scout Ltd., has big plans to turn it into a hub for creative people.
Those plans took a massive step today as Scout announced it has officially closed on the building in a $1.75 million deal. The ambitious redevelopment plan includes opening up the 340,000-square-foot (over 5 football fields) Art Deco building for various creative, community and entrepreneurial uses. A key element will also be reintroducing life back to the block. A press release states that Scout will “invest approximately $25 million into the redevelopment” of the property.
When completed, it will be the largest mixed-use building in Philadelphia targeted towards the creative community.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation–which recently partnered with the William Penn Foundation to award $11 million to five Philadelphia parks (including the highly anticipated Rail Park)–has announced the thirty-two recipients of its annual Knight Cities Challenge this year. Seven of them–really nine, as you’ll read in a bit–are in Philly.
The organization is known for running similar competitions in various fields throughout the country, but it’s the Cities Challenge that seeks innovative civic ideas that will help enhance Knight Foundation communities into “more vibrant places to live and work.” Thank goodness we’re one of them, right?
Lindsey Scannapieco’s South Philadelphia project–the renovation and eventual conversion of the former Bok School into a thriving creative maker space for local entrepreneurs (more details here)–has residents rooting for the young developer in spite of project’s scale. And for good reason, according to Inga Saffron who weighed in on Scannapieco’s plans last week.
For one thing, Saffron notes, Scannapieco is coming at the shuttered school with a “fresh eye and offbeat sensibility.” Indeed, the London School of Economics graduate was “running Scout Ltd.,” the company behind “Fridge Mountain” and other public art installations, last year. This background might be why Scannapieco envisions a lively outdoor community in addition to the interior creative hub: Read more »
If you’ve been following coverage of the school closings that swept the city, news of how the former Edward H. Bok Technical High School would be living its second life may not come as a surprise.
Last month, we reported how developer Lindsey Scannapieco plans to transform the building into what Next City calls “the city’s largest creative community space.” Indeed, Scannapieco envisions a mixed-use building with rental units, terraces, co-working spaces (a feature which, while growing in the city, is sorely lacking in East Passyunk), and a rooftop cinema. Until then, however, Bok is being used as a storage center.
If the former Edward W. Bok School actually is transformed the way developer Lindsey Scannapieco plans, it’ll be the city’s “largest creative community space,” according to the nonprofit urbanism org Next City, which presciently made Scannapieco a 2014 Next City Vanguard member. Scannapieco’s company, Scout Ltd., was picked by the Philadelphia School District and School Reform Commission (SRC) after an open auction process moderated by PIDC. Now Scout is tasked with refashioning the hulking block-long building—we’re talking 340,000 square feet—into a dynamic multi-use space that’ll cater to artists, entrepreneurs, and “Philadelphia creatives.”
From the project website:
Offering an unprecedented concentration of space for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) innovators, artists and entrepreneurs, our proposed new use will channel the maker and craftsman roots of Bok’s history into a new showcasing space for Philadelphia’s leading creative talent. Featuring on-site parking, high volume spaces, hardwood floors, heavy floor loading capacities and a critical mass of creatives, this building will be unlike anything else within the region.
There will be:
- “affordable” rental apartments
- 5 roof terraces for public use, i.e., rooftop cinema, outdoor beer terraces
- variety of work spaces
- ground floor with “active, engaged and innovative uses that will build on the energy and new businesses of the East Passyunk Crossing neighborhood.”