How do you balance the needs of a building that must incorporate modern sustainability features while honoring its historic significance, all the while keeping 30 government-agency tenants happy in the process?
The Strawbridge & Clothier building has a storied history. It was constructed as a department store in 1928 at Eight and Market Streets in Philadelphia occupying a site where, from 1790-1793, Thomas Jefferson presided as Secretary of State for the young United States of America. The current building’s historical context, however, is it Beaux Arts features, extravagances that resulted in its completion wildly over budget on the eve of the Great Depression.
“Featuring marble floors and polished mahogany counters, wide aisles and gracious staircases, plush restrooms for the ladies and in-store fashion shows by Junior League debutantes,” Dianna Marder wrote in a 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer ode to the by-then defunct Strawbridge’s store, “Philadelphia’s grand department stores stood as beacons of style and set the tone for public decorum.”
Fortunately, the 801 Market Building went on to benefit from a nationwide movement to encourage preservation of historic properties while supporting the economic health of central business districts, accomplished by repurposing them as office space for government tenants. The relocation plans of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of General Services mirrored this model when the agency enlisted Armand Corporation to oversee renovation of office space for some 30 different governmental agencies.
Armand was successful in adhering to regulations for preservation of a historic landmark building as well as requirements of LEED Gold certification. Working with both the Philadelphia Historical and Museum Commission and the US Green Building Council, Armand was able to achieve LEED Gold status while respecting the stringent regulations involved in acknowledging and preserving the building’s rich history and distinctive Beaux Arts architectural details. For example, the Historic District Commission and LEED standards required that new interior partitions adjacent to the perimeter wall, which normally separate office spaces, be constructed of glass partitions and transparent office furniture systems. This made the partitions invisible from the outside of the building, thus preserving its historical appearance and simultaneously allowing natural sunlight to penetrate deep into the office, a LEED requirement.
A federal report describing the concept of “historic building stewardship” lauded “the government’s potential to act as a catalyst for social and economic good and create champions for urban location and reuse.”
Armand Corporation is proud to have been a part of it at 801 Market Street in Philadelphia.