South Philly’s Bok School Will Become a Hub for Creative People

Developer Lindsey Scannapieco is set to transform the enormous historic school.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Edward W Bok School via Wikimedia Commons.

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.”

Given that the art deco exterior is on the National Register, Scannapieco will be limited in terms of changes she can make to its facade. But her company’s redevelopment plan does include manna from heaven in South Philly: underground parking.

First she has to close on the building, which should happen in 90 days. Then, while major construction goes on, she’ll find creative temporary uses for the space—a subject with which she’s deeply familiar.

After getting a master of Science in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics, Scannapieco worked at the London Legacy Development Corporation, where she led the Interim Uses work stream to secure temporary uses for the Olympic Park. From Next City:

Renovating the ground floor will be the first priority. And given her past work on temporary installations, she’s says, “I’m interested in what role interim uses can play.” Eager to activate the space, she notes, “The longer something stays quiet, the harder it is to revive. I want to showcase that something is going on and changing there.”

According to the media release sent out on behalf of her company, “a key part of Scout’s vision is providing immediate activation to the site in the interim period.” It continues:

Scannapieco aspires to energize the site through a series of temporary, artistic uses that serves to revive the space. Local artists will be invited to help ignite small-scale activity back into the monumental building, creating engaging, playful and educational experiences.

Young Developer Will Create Philadelphia’s Largest Creative Community Space [Next City]