The Poplar is a newly renovated 400,000 square foot mixed-use and multi-family building in Philadelphia, PA.
Located in the Northern Liberties, south of Girard Avenue and next to the elevated train line, The Poplar is formerly a historic and dilapidated warehouse that was in dire need of restoration. Thanks to Post Brothers and the design team, we transformed the site into a luxury apartment building that breathes life into the developing Northern Liberties community.
The Poplar has 285 apartment units, 3 commercial office spaces, 2 large ground-floor retail areas, and a host of ultra-modern amenities for the tenants. The cornerstone of the design was an approach that seamlessly added these modern conveniences, while maintaining the character of the original warehouse.
The Poplar at Dusk, Photography by Basel Almisshal
The building was originally constructed in 1918 for the local department store Strawbridge and Clothier. Once called the Quaker Building, it was utilized as a ‘remote delivery station’ for Strawbridge. With the demise of the company, the building fell into disrepair and was left unoccupied in recent decades.
The original building was built in two phases. As a result, there were many inconsistencies in the building’s construction. For example, between the two phases the floors were unaligned and the ceiling height varied. Despite the problems these posed, the building had character. We knew that we could leverage its existing features and quirks not just to benefit apartment living, but also to honor its industrial past.
A historical photo of the Strawbridge and Clothier warehouse
The site at the project’s start
Converting an already established space posed various challenges. For one, the whole first floor was at loading dock height, and it would have been cost prohibitive to lower it in its entirety. At the same time, its location next to the elevated train line created a cramped and constricted feeling in the proposed entryways. To solve both problems, we decided to bring the floor height down 48” solely in the residential lobby area, while providing sculptural stairs leading back up to the existing floor height. We also removed a portion of the 2nd floor slab to create a double-height space and created a portico-type anteroom to the lobby. This added volume of space helps visitors not feel as compressed when they come in from under the train line.
The exterior has been rehabilitated to repair the concrete facade and ensure the continued viability of the structure. New aluminum windows, aesthetically compatible with the original steel sashes, were installed in the original openings. Modern butt-glazing was installed to maintain the shadow lines of the existing openings.
The spacious and open lobby is a glass vestibule whose refined interior palette sleekly contrasts darks, lights, and neutrals. Some existing concrete and columns have been selectively exposed and refurbished to call back to the original warehouse.
The architecture of the original warehouse carries into the apartment units as well. Apartments in the Poplar retain high ceilings and were specifically arranged to take advantage of natural light from the large openings as well as the built clerestory windows. In total, there are 285 units over 8 floors, ranging from studio, 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom spaces. Units are kept open with few divisions to emphasize the spaciousness.
The expansive rooftop deck includes a host of features for residents, including pools, hot tubs, a dog run, games area, yoga area, lounge/movie area, outdoor kitchen, and restrooms. A variety of planting types are provided across “floating islands,” with beds for grasses and shrubs as well as small trees. Some elements of the original building are preserved, such as the smoke stack.
In addition to the roof deck, other amenity spaces include a residential lounge, music studio, luxury spa, commercial-grade kitchen, coworking area, children’s play room, and a 10,000 SF fitness center. The fitness center is particularly notable because it was converted from a former railway spur line that ran into the building. The spur line was once used to ferry deliveries into the building, and we kept many of those industrial finishes in the design.
We also made sustainability a priority at The Poplar. Carbon-free heating and cooling systems, water efficient washers, dishwashers and toilets, and 100% wind generated power were put in place to make this 285-unit apartment complex a carbon-emission-free property.