a continuation of our sit down with Scout Managing Partner + Project Manager Lindsey Scannapieco on the team's massive new project, the Bok building in South Philadelphia. Last week we discovered what Bok was prior to Scout's presence + their goals for the building moving forward. Read on below to learn more on the future plans of the building, including the rooftop bar, yoga sessions + new tenants, as well as Lindsey's hopes for other long vacant buildings not only in Philadelphia, but the country as a whole.
hg: there was a bit of criticism directed at the Bok + Le Bok Fin last year. Is there something you would like to express to those community members about your aspirations for the Bok project?
lindsey: we built and opened that bar [Le Bok Fin] in 30 days. Certainly there are things that we could have better thought through, but we’ve learned from that experience.
“Bok will never be just a bar.”
Although I think the frustration was slightly misguided last summer, if we needed to be the scapegoat for a larger conversation to happen about how we reuse these large civic assets that have significant neighborhood meaning and memory, then I am glad that we helped to spur that conversation. That’s a really important discussion and challenge – not just in Philadelphia, but around the country and we need to be talking about it more.
hg: despite the aforementioned criticism, you made a significant impact last year with your pop-up beer + dinner garden, Le Bok Fin. Could you explain a bit more on the inspiration for this space, and will it return in 2016?
lindsey: it was an unanticipated success last summer and that had its own challenges that came with it. We weren’t expecting that many people to actually come, which was great and terrifying at the same time. The thing to keep in mind is the 8th floor is only 5% of the building’s square footage, so it’s a very small portion of the total building.
It has fantastic views, people have fallen in love with the space + there’s no other space quite like it in Philadelphia. In our mind the project is all about balance and the roof is a critical component in that balance. We see the roof as a commercial component that can help support + enable the rest of the activity that happens in the building.
Based on feedback from visitors last year, what we are proposing is a seasonal bar on the north face of the building [where Le Bok Fin was last year] with WAY more seating, WAY more shade and rain cover. The south facing roof would become a more intimate, reservation based restaurant with 45 seats, 50 additional seats outside based on seasons, + an open chef kitchen. What’s nice is you can’t actually hear anything from either location on street level, and from one side of the building to the other you can’t hear anything. They will very much be two separate spaces.
Last year we used a lot of found materials, whereas this year we will be using more permanent items and materials for the spaces such as a green roof for the bar cover and bench seating.
“It will not be Le Bok Fin, it will be totally different.”
hg: will the rooftop yoga sessions continue into 2016? Was there a decent turnout last year?
lindsey: rooftop yoga was a success! What was really interesting about it was that it wasn’t just girls in Lululemon, it was residents of Dudley Street who haven’t done yoga before. I think there will be lots of different types of activity that can happen not only on the roof but throughout the rest of the building, and a fitness offer will definitely be a part of that.
hg: what types of tenants is Bok attracting?
lindsey: our current tenants are a great glimpse of the types of people coming into Bok. They are predominately local --- over 80% of our current tenants are South Philadelphia residents + nearly 43% live within our 19148 zip code.
We have a hatmaker, jewelry maker, fashion designer + a nanoscientist as just some of the current tenants. Every available room is a little different and likewise every potential tenant is a little different.
hg: do you see the same potential you see in Bok, in other unused or vacant buildings in Philadelphia (and in other cities as well)?
lindsey: i think there will be lessons learned from this project that can hopefully be applied to other large civic assets that have been disused and are challenging to make them viable. It’s all about context. With Bok, we inherited a context that had a lot of technical equipment in it. Every single building has its assets and its opportunities. It’s really about digging down and exploring what those are, then developing an approach that reflects them in the best way possible. I would love to see the same creativity, resourcefulness + nimbleness which we employed with Bok, applied to each one of these buildings across the nation. These have always been community spaces and landmarks and it's really important for them to remain not only as physical realities but as social + economic realities as well.
hg: what do you hope your legacy is, not only in South Philadelphia, but the city in a whole?
lindsey: my hope is that it is a thriving, financially viable community and that is what the building embodies. I think that our playfulness, our foundation in always understanding the context, together with our nimbleness are always a part of the building. I also hope that we can be an example, to some degree, on how you can approach these large scale, challenging buildings. It’s very unique that we’ve had this opportunity as such a young practice. We are…
“...majority female in an industry that is almost entirely men, so there’s some really interesting dynamics and I hope they help inspire other people...”
…however that may be. It might be in terms of gender divide challenges in certain industries or in terms of spatial and design approaches to creative financing and creating balanced communities. I think that’s really important, to have balance in all things.
hg: what is next for Scout?
lindsey: while nothing is planned now, prior to taking on Bok I’ve always had an obsession with the LA River and I’ve always wanted to do a project there. But there are so many interesting things happening in Philadelphia I really have no idea what’s ahead, to be honest.
If you asked me 5 or 10 years ago if we would’ve been here I would’ve said 'never.' Using that experience, I have to remain open-minded as to where it all takes us.
hg: is there anything else you would like to express?
“I love South Philly…”
…it’s such an interesting, dynamic and hysterical community. It's so great finally having people in the space + showing up at the bar. I think that’s the best part. We were so excited about the letters going up in the dog park even. I think it’s really rewarding to make things happen on the ground.