Seven Philadelphia Projects Receive Commonwealth Awards for Sustainable Development

October 24, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2011 

Seven Philadelphia Projects Receive Commonwealth Awards for Sustainable Development 

Contact: Dan Wofford,, 610-933-4640 

Philadelphia - Seven development projects that are revitalizing Philadelphia communities, spurring economic development, catalyzing private investment, and serving as models of sustainable development received Commonwealth Awards at 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania’s recent annual awards event. 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, the state’s leading Smart Growth advocacy organization, honored these seven projects in the region, as well as 16 others from across the state, with its prestigious annual awards this year.

The Commonwealth Awards is a juried statewide program honoring smart growth projects from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 10,000 Friends invited submissions from companies and organizations that produced a wide range of project types—urban infill, historic preservation and rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, brownfield redevelopment, traditional neighborhood development, farmland preservation, and revitalization plans. 

Smart Growth strategies build suburban, urban, and rural communities that have more transportation options; have more housing and recreational choices; are closer to job opportunities, shops, and schools; support the local economy; are more energy efficient and independent; and help protect green space, clean air, and clean water.

“The Commonwealth Awards honor outstanding examples of Smart Growth projects here in Pennsylvania,” said Jack Machek, President and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.  “We received a record number of submissions this year, and it’s very encouraging to see so many smart growth projects succeeding as many sectors of the construction industry are struggling to rebound. 10,000 Friends is proud to showcase the companies and organizations working to build stronger towns and communities across the state.”

The awardees include:

 The Piazza at Schmidt’s project received the Diamond Award for private development, 10,000 Friends’ highest award, at this year’s Commonwealth Awards. The project has become an integral part of the regeneration of the Northern Liberties community in Philadelphia. Located on a three-acre portion of the south side of the former Schmidt’s Brewery site, this complex is comprised of modern apartment housing, retail, office space, public amenities and the conversion of two vacant former warehouses. 

The $100 million project was developed by Tower Investments Inc., and is an important part of Tower Investments’ 16-acre, $500 million Northern Liberties revitalization project -- the country’s largest private urban renewal initiative. 

The 80,000 square foot open-air plaza is surrounded by three new buildings which house 260 apartments, five new restaurants, 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space housing 35 artisans and boutiques, and 35,000 sq. ft. of office space.

“This project embodies many, or all, of the principles we are trying to emulate simultaneously, and it is an amazing achievement,” the jury said.               

777 South Broad received a Gold Award in the Mixed-Use Development category. Built on city-owned land that had been vacant for over a decade, 777 South Broad is a vibrant mixed-use “multi-family” development. It replaced a block-long mass of vacant and decaying row homes that was intermittently a homeless destination. Developed by Dranoff Properties, the 85,355 square foot site is comprised of a five-story building containing 146 luxury loft apartments, 191 parking spaces and 18,835 square feet of ground level shops and restaurants. The removal of the blight at 777 and the construction of a new housing and retail services hub greatly enhances the neighborhood and expands the reach of new development along South Broad Street, known as the “Avenue of the Arts.”

“The building has boldly stretched the reach of the Avenue of the Arts into more transitional neighborhoods.  It’s a classic example of successful urban infill,” the jury said. “The project introduces high-end market-rate housing in a neighborhood surrounded by public housing. Its gleaming presence along a key stretch the of the avenue is helping to transform a space once abandoned and blighted, making the avenue’s southern end much more attractive, encouraging future development.”

Master Plan for the Central Delaware received a Gold Award in the Plans and Planning category.  Produced by the Delaware Riverfront Corporation, the plan provides a detailed blueprint for six miles of the Delaware waterfront through central Philadelphia, covering nearly 1,100 acres of land and spanning a variety of uses from vacant brownfields to active industrial to new residential to parkland. The plan envisions a revitalized waterfront that both enhances the working aspects of the river, such as the port facilities at both the north and south ends of the planning area, as well as new mixed-use development that complements the scale and character of the existing Philadelphia neighborhoods.

“The plan includes a highlydetailed strategy of limited public investment that aims to begin the transformation of the waterfront through the development of improved public space -- such as the Race Street Pier -- at key locations in order to catalyze private development on adjacent parcels,” the jury said. “Combining a long-term vision for the Delaware River waterfront with a practical understanding of funding realities, the plan is a superb example of comprehensive, farsighted and pragmatic urban planning.”

30th Street Main Post Office Renovation received a Commonwealth Award in the Commercial Projects category. This project, designed by Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson and developed by Brandywine Realty Trust, is a prime example of adaptive reuse, involving the rehabilitation of the 926,000-square-foot, 5-story Main Post Office. While preserving a significant historical treasure, the project will have a catalytic impact on future development in West Philadelphia. The facility will house a major federal agency employing over 5,000 people, bring new vitality, business opportunities and improved security to the neighborhood. The Main Post Office is located near West Philadelphia's principal transportation hub, which offers accessible public transport to the agency’s employees. 

“A significant achievement—the sizable cost and imposing footprint of building made it very difficult project, and if the opportunity had not been seized as the Postal Service was leaving, the building likely would have been vacant for many years,” the jury said. “Instead it brought a federal workforce facility to the city, with resultant impact on tax base.” 

Race Street Pier received a Commonwealth award under the Public Infrastructure Project category. Developed by the Delaware Riverfront Corporation, this project is an oneacre park created on a pier located on the Delaware River at Race Street adjacent to the Old City section of Philadelphia. The pier, once used for both recreation and industry, has sat vacant for a many years, becoming overgrown with plants while structurally decaying. The park’s immediate vicinity is largely commercial, with hotels, office space, and restaurants. The formerly vacant municipal pier has been repurposed as stunning public recreation and green space. 

“By catalyzing development on nearby parcels and drawing visitors to the park and other waterfront destinations, the Race Street Pier is already showing that it is successfully transforming and revitalizing the waterfront into a vibrant place for visitors and businesses, and nearby residents,” the jury said. 

Pembroke North Condominiums received a Commonwealth Award under the Housing and Community Institution Projects category.  Situated in close proximity to two regional rail stations, this condominium project was built on a Brownfield site in Wayne.

A LEED certified Green Building, Pembroke North combines outstanding design elements with cutting edge energy efficiency features, including 60 geothermal wells drilled 600 feet deep. Developed by the Razak Company, this project exemplifies successful suburban infill redevelopment. 

“Re-using this suburban site for a transit-oriented redevelopment project make this project worthy of award—and the retail, dining, and personal care amenities of Wayne’s central business district all can be accessed without the use of a car,” the Jury noted.  “Served by two regional rail lines, and at the nexus between residential and commercial districts, this project successfully brings condominium living to the suburban historic Main Line,” the jury emphasized. 

Norris Apartments received a “Building a More Perfect Commonwealth” Award for model projects that are still under construction. This project, which sits one block from the Temple (SEPTA) regional rail station, is a model of infill development and transit-oriented development. Developed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and designed by Blackney Hayes, the project is part of a larger development strategy for the neighborhood, coordinating with a private development that has proposed market rate homeownership, commercial development and student housing. 

Development of this plan was done with the City Planning Commission’s input and advice, based on the overall neighborhood strategy to develop appropriately dense housing that could maximize the transit-oriented nature of community. 

10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania is the leading advocate in Pennsylvania for responsible and efficient land use. Our vision is to have a positive impact on the built and natural environment through efficient land use. Founded in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1998, 10,000 Friends has aligned and supported organizations and individuals from across the state committed to land use policies and actions that enable Pennsylvania to strengthen its diverse urban, suburban, and rural communities and reduce wasteful and inefficient land consumption. For more information visit:          

2011 Commonwealth Awards Press Release - Philadelphia45.5 KB