Architype: Well Built
I went to NBC 10’s website recently and was met with this headline: “450-Pound Man Hid Marijuana in Stomach Fat.” I didn’t read on — it lacked the element of surprise — but given the combo of obesity and creative problem-solving, I assumed the man was from Philly.
He’s actually from Volusia County, Florida, which made me realize I still have that retrograde notion of our city as a fat, unhealthy place. In the past few years, though, the city has experienced a health and fitness boom that’s radically changed its rep. And now one of Center City’s highest-profile commercial-to-rental conversions — 1616 Walnut — has an entire “wellness floor” with units geared to health-conscious Philadelphians.
The WELL Signature Suites at Icon were created by Delos, the only real estate company devoted to wellness. Founded by former Wall Streeter Paul Scialla, Delos is piloting the WELL Building Standard, a LEED-style certification that evaluates a building’s impact on its tenants’ health rather than on the environment. “Everyone sees this as an obvious next step in real estate: intelligent concern for the human condition,” Scialla says.
Delos has about 60 projects in the U.S. right now, but Icon is the company’s first foray into the luxury rental market. And what a place to start.
The former commercial building on Walnut has kept its Art Deco magic as a residence, even with the contemporary amenities. Many of these — a temperature-controlled storage room for grocery delivery, a bike-share room, an herb garden encourage a healthy lifestyle.
The wellness floor has 11 WELL Signature Suites, which rent at a 10 percent premium over other units. Each suite has about 20 features that include an air purification system; an aromatherapy diffuser; a Vitamin C showerhead (which neutralizes chlorine); an antibacterial kitchen; and energizing light in the bathrooms. Each resident also gets the Stay Well Home App — designed in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic — which tracks usage and effectiveness of the unit’s features.
The renters of one of the penthouses saw the model wellness unit and had the features installed. Cross Properties’ Kevin Michals, one of the building’s owner/developers, expects that to keep happening.
“I think there’s a subset of people who understand that better air quality is important and better light to wake you in the morning is important,” says Michals, an endurance athlete and vegan who’s dealt with plenty of skeptics. “I shared this with another developer, who laughed it off and said, ‘It sounds like a waste of time to me.’” But Michals isn’t discouraged. “Philadelphians can be their own worst enemy. The good news is, I was born in Chicago and spent 14 years in San Francisco.” In other words, he’s not a guy who’d mistake Philadelphia for Volusia County, Florida. “Philadelphia,” he says, “is a healthy city.”
Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.