Wednesday, June 3, 2015

250K SF NoLib Warehouse Becoming Horizontal Office Space

by Steve Lubetkin,
Alliance Partners HSP has unveiled plans to transform a 250,000-square-foot warehouse property into SoNo, a collaborative work environment in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood – a rising enclave for young professionals in the technology, advertising, media and information sectors (TAMI).

A private real estate investment and operating company, Alliance HSP has more than two decades of experience transforming underutilized, obsolete warehouse assets in infill locations into ‘cool space’ work environments. The company acquired the Northern Liberties property in 2014 with an eye toward designing and building an open and modern "horizontal" space that could serve as a magnet for companies looking to tap into Philadelphia’s pool of millennial talent. Philadelphia is home to 120,000 college students, 64 percent of who stay local after graduating. The city also boasts the nation’s fastest growing millennial population and the highest number of graduate degrees per capita.

"We have completed more than a billion dollars of large redevelopments throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region over the past 20 years. Never have we seen such a well-placed and underutilized asset as SoNo,” says Richard Previdi, operating managing partner for the firm.

Previdi and several members of his redevelopment team visited the West Coast prior to beginning the design process.

“Our goal was to ‘find the edge’ of warehouse redevelopment,” Previdi says. “What we heard from our fellow redevelopers was that buildings 'at the edge' were being redeveloped into large horizontal (versus vertical) workspaces that provided very efficient space, proximity to the 'biking' millennial workforce, and included such unique amenities as roof-top entertainment terraces, healthy-food dining facilities, and multiple collaborative meeting areas. The West Coast tenants told us that they have 'content versus commodity' businesses, and that people are their most important assets. As such, their most important real estate 'drivers' beyond having efficient, horizontal space is collaboration, branding and recruitment. We think SoNo provides all of these.”

SoNo will have a bi-level, open plan with 24-foot ceilings, 15 sawtooth skylights, numerous conference pods and alcoves, an amphitheater, custom art, and vertical window slots. A 75-foot tower will house a tenants-only lounge, bar and rooftop deck, fire pit, barbecue area and will offer panoramic views of Philadelphia.

Additional building amenities include a bicycle storage area with space for 75 bikes, lockers and a changing room; a café that features community tables, bar-style seating and healthy food options; and a club-caliber fitness center with treadmills, cross-trainers, stair-climbers, multiple bike configurations and a yoga area.

The building’s exterior will feature seating areas, a basketball court and a picnic area with space designated for food trucks – all within ten blocks of the center of the city.

“The changes underway in the SoNo area are a microcosm of the overall transformation of the Philadelphia central business district into a world-class, ‘live, work and play’ urban environment,” says Matt Handel, the company's director of leasing. “Our Northern Liberties neighborhood alone has seen a 60 percent population increase between 2000 and 2010.”

The City of Philadelphia has responded to the surging interest in its urban core as a millennial destination by undertaking transformative public improvement projects. These projects include the Spring Garden Greenway Initiative, which will transform the four lanes running directly in front of SoNo into a 2.2 mile, heavily landscaped boulevard with dedicated bike lanes, and, as previously reported by, the Rail Park – a three mile section of the abandoned Reading rail line, which is now being converted into an elevated urban park, much like Manhattan’s High Line.

“It's clear that change has come to Philadelphia's urban core and that the Northern Liberties neighborhood soon will become Philadelphia's answer to Manhattan's TriBeCa,” says Handel. “We at Alliance are certain that SoNo will be a big part of this transformation."

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