Bok Developer to Preserve South Philly History with First Part of Stoop Project

Scout Ltd. teamed up with StoryCorps for the first piece of South Philly's Stoop.

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

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

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.

According to a press release, Scout and the Building Bok team opened its doors last week to eighteen pairs of South Philadelphia residents as part of a partnership with StoryCorps, a non-profit whose mission is to record, preserve, and share stories. Over the course of three days, the 36 participants – some of which were Bok alumni, Southwark students, longtime residents, multi-ethnic community activists, and even parents to civic association leaders – shared stories from their lives.

From the press release:

These South Philadelphia voices will play an integral role in both preserving individual histories and shaping a collective narrative, one that is comprised not just of one story or one neighborhood, but is in fact layered with multiple stories and timelines, reflecting the diversity, complexity, and dynamism of the people and communities who call South Philly home.

In an email to PropertyScout Outreach Coordinator Lily Goodspeed says each pair of participants spoke for 40-45 minutes during each sitting. Most of these were sent to the Library of Congress through Storycorps and will, after some turnaround time, be available to Scout. “In the meantime we are in the brainstorming phase for creative ways to make the stories available and accessible to neighbors and community members,” Goodspeed said.

Construction of the South Philly Stoop project is expected to begin sometime in the spring and will take inspiration from three June engagement sessions with Southwark students. According to Goodspeed, these students – from 1st, 2nd, and 5th grades – were asked to draw, create collages, and brainstorm maps to communicate what they valued in communal living spaces. Additionally, Scout provided them with disposable cameras to take photos of their own living spaces at home and neighborhood.

“As we work to build Bok into a new space for community members and creatives, we want to celebrate those who have worked to make this neighborhood great for years, and we also want to celebrate students who learned and grew within these walls while Bok was a technical and vocational high school. I think StoryCorps is a great way to honor these voices, and a great first project for us as we move towards engaging the community in other creative ways,” said Goodspeed in the press release.

The South Philly Stoop project is slated to reach completion by late summer 2016, while the Bok redevelopment as a whole is an ongoing multi-year project.

The post has been updated with more information provided by a Scout Ltd. spokesperson regarding the Storycorps collaboration project and the anticipated Bok redevelopment timeline.