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ICON 1616 Wins Grand Jury Award

By: Armando Ramirez January 1, 2015 No Comments

ICON|1616 Walnut Street has been a landmark office building in Philadelphia since 1929, when it was designed by the notable architecture firm Tilden, Register & Pepper with Richard Yarnall. The building was originally built as a speculative office building and at the time received many awards for the its unique contemporary design at the 12th International Buildings Congress. The building has since been added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1982 and to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The twenty-five story, 297,000sf art deco building was recently converted to residential use containing 220 luxury apartments, 160 parking spaces and 23,000 sf of prime ground floor retail. The building has been continuously occupied as office space since it first opened, and has gone through many remodels as office spaces often do; however many original details have been preserved in the lobby, elevators, and in the hallways and much of its façade and original cast bronze work has remained intact and painstakingly restored.

The building had a notable past and a few notable occupants. Completed at the start of the Great Depression, the building’s ground floor originally included both Cunard’s White Star Line and the United States Lines, and the esteemed Pew family maintained a pied-a-terre on the 25th Floor. Today, this history echoes throughout ICON|1616, a building that is a rare architectural experience.

The lobby looks almost identical to its 1920s style, as it has the same terrazzo and marble flooring, glass ceiling, chandeliers, and a clock from when it was originally built. A new reception desk was installed in the renovation and has been designed to contrast the original work in a contemporary way as not to be a cheap imitation of something more of the building’s period. The elevators include the original doors and aluminum trim, with a unique removable ceiling hatch to accommodate larger objects in the elevator cab. The intricate stamped aluminum details throughout the lobby and elevator cabs have been restored to their original luster. Aluminum was a very expensive precious metal when 1616 Walnut was constructed and still plays a major role in the historical architectural significance of the building today.



Another major part of the historic preservation effort was the replacement of all of the original windows in the building to match the original design – something that was required to maintain the historical facade. Much of the steel frames of the operable casement windows were in disrepair with chipping paint, and rusting sashes and sills. The window consultant was able to match the original size, shape and functionality of the old windows with new energy efficient glazing and was even able to match the look of the original exterior hinges which was a detail required by the historical review board. The millwork on the 24th and 25th floor was painstakingly restored with multiple restoration techniques being required due to the several different types of hardwood that were utilized. During the restoration, solid cherry wood flooring in a herringbone pattern was discovered in a former conference room; the flooring was completely concealed by floor adhesive and likely hadn’t been visible for more than 25 years.

The $50 million construction project took 18 months, and was completed in the spring of 2014. It has been a catalyst in the resurgence of older Philadelphia buildings being converted or repurposed into ultra high-end residences. As of December 2014, the building has commanded the highest residential rents in the city. Its location on the toniest shopping street in the city and its proximity to Rittenhouse Square and restaurants give it a competitive edge in a robust market, but the real differentiator is the world class amenities incorporated into the new design. The building boasts the largest open air roof deck in the city and affords spectacular views of the city skyline and the building also contains lavish communal spaces and a fitness center that would rival most commercial gyms. The residential units themselves have also spared no expense, with high ceilings, huge expanses of glazing and natural light and only the finest finishes. The new design features have been meticulously executed to complement the original grandeur of the iconic building and bring it back to the same glory it had on the day it opened eighty five years ago.

Owners: Federal Capital Partners; Alterra Property Group; Bozzuto Management Co.; Cross Properties
Interior Design: Floss Barber, Inc.
General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Mechanical Engineering: Alderson Engineering
Structural Engineers: O’Donnell & Naccarato
Restoration Consultant: Johnson & Griffiths Studio
Historic Consultant: Powers & Company, Inc.;
Owners Rep: TPSi