The Civic: A Story of Reuse

Written by Antoinette Marie Johnson on November 18, 2019

“One of the great strengths of cities is their ability to reinvent themselves.” Inga Saffron, Inquirer

Our client MMPartner’s project The Civic apartments at 1600 Girard Avenue is no exception.

This property has had a few lives of its own, from a Cataholic hospital 100 years ago, to its 1980’s clunky redesign. Today The Civic has received notable recognition for the unique application of modern design practices, helping breathe new life into it and transform it into a sexy destination.


Philadelphia, like many other cities, is being faced with an increase of expired and abandoned institutions like churches, schools and hospitals.  These buildings are part of a larger story, intricately woven into Philadelphia’s identity. Rather than knocking them down for new builds, we should be finding ways to preserve their history and make them relevant today. The Civic, unlike many other developments in the area, is an impressive example of adapting a century-old space without sacrificing modernity

“The continued existence of the hospital and the church buildings will be good for their neighborhoods, good for the city, and good for the planet. If we’re lucky, these structures will last a long time.” –Inga Saffron, Inquirer

HOW WE DID IT

Cohere approached this project with the ultimate design challenge: how do we take a heidious eye-sore and turn it into something we would be proud of?

Brand moments come to life with the Civic’s C mark as a mirror and our interior photoshoot

We combined multiple sources of inspiration – We took inspiration from the Public Hotel’s bold branding and indirect lighting, timeless black and white with neutral color tones to help avoid another “era” design mistake.

Interior moments that inspired the Civic’s design

WE CREATED A PUBLICATION

Our publication celebrated other creators in Philadelphia that align with the “man in the arena” value system – brave artisans who put their vision out there, invest time and money into creating something unique, and often get criticized. The publication celebrated Franciseville, North Philly and the artists that make it a special place.

Included in the publication was a special curated playlist, The Civic Playlist: Readapted. The playlist lists old songs by iconic artists like Etta James and Aretha Franklin that have each been paired with songs that have readapted them for a new version. We are constantly learning what’s old is always new again, an idea that was ever present throughout this project.

THE ARTWORK

The building took on new life when Revolvd curated an art collection using only local artists with the intention to foster engagement between residents, offer a boutique hotel feel, and serve as a reflection of the N. Philly neighborhood. The intention was to make art, an amenity often reserved for the upper class, more accessible.

MMPartners

For years MMPartners has been a highly engaged development group that invests and cares a lot about their multiple neighborhood reach in North Philadelphia. Our Q & A with David Waxman, Co-Founder/Managing Partner of MMPartners, in our Unfiltered series exposes his bluntness about why people hate developers. 

“These old buildings also have great stories that can assist in telling a story. At the end of the day, people prefer an interesting adaptive reuse apartment vs. a generic “spaceship” new building.” – David Waxman

– Thank you MMP for the trust on this project!

A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT

Randi Bellamy, our Designer, who put her heart and soul into this project. She’s becoming our in-house placemaking expert having now done a bunch of adaptive reuse design projects for real estate developers. She grew up in North Philadelphia and is a budding brand of her own and is uniquely positioned to appreciate the history and new life of these buildings. We are so proud of her exceptional best-in-class work here!