In this issue, we delve into Environmental Justice, to raise awareness and spur action on the part of architects and design professionals.

Special Offer
for AIA Philadelphia Members

Architectural Record is offering AIA Philadelphia Members the chance to continue their subscription for a special rate of $49 for a full year. To view the offer and continue your subscription, click here.

September 3, 2021
Member News

Northeast Community Propel Academy Opens its Doors for 1,600 Philadelphia Students

By Stantec

After more than a year of remote learning, 1,600 students from the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) returned to school this week in the beautiful new Northeast Community Propel Academy, a 180,000 square foot K-8 facility resulting from a public-private partnership (P3) between the district and the experts at Gilbane and Stantec. The building is modern, vibrant, and student-centered, providing an engaging new learning environment for the district, which has experienced extraordinary and sustained growth.

"The Northeast Community Propel Academy will provide an engaging and dynamic 21st century learning environment for the students of Philadelphia for many years to come, and our team at Gilbane is proud to deliver the school on budget and on time, despite the challenges that the pandemic brought our way," said Ed Broderick, President and CEO of Gilbane Development Company. "We stayed nimble, flexible, and determined, and the result is a beautiful new school that reminds us all what is possible when public and private sector leaders work together for the good of the community."

“The Northeast Community Propel Academy is a successful model for turnkey project delivery, harnessing the exciting educational opportunities that exist in having K-8 learning environments under one roof,” said Luis Vildostegui, Senior Principal and Education Leader in Stantec’s Philadelphia office. “We value the incredible level of engagement from our project partners, stakeholders, and the community. Together, these voices created a special place that engages nature, both physically and as a metaphor, to reinforce the idea of school as a moment of relief, a place for exploration, imagination, and socialization.”

Financing for the project was completed one week before COVID-19 shut down schools in March 2020, yet Gilbane and Stantec completed the $80 million social infrastructure project on time for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

"For more than 150 years, Gilbane has built a strong record of success, including a growing, impressive portfolio of social infrastructure projects like the Northeast Community Propel Academy," said Susan Tully, Senior Project Manager and K-12 Center of Excellence Leader. "In my role as the leader of Gilbane's K-12 Center of Excellence, I see every day the difference that a vibrant, state-of-the-art learning environment can make in the life of a student, and I'm proud and excited to see that come to life here in Philadelphia."

The Northeast Community Propel Academy consolidates clusters of classrooms and collaborative zones around shared media and tech commons within each grade level house. With a total of nine clusters, grades can be organized vertically or horizontally with the number of classrooms adjustable as needed. The overall arrangement efficiently combines collaborative areas for small learning groups adjacent to media and tech commons, promoting ease of collaboration and the ability to allow for directed break-out activities appropriate to grade level needs.

“We know this has been a tough 18 months for everyone, and there will continue to be challenges as we navigate the pandemic. But school reopening has been a long-awaited moment for the District,” said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. “To see the joy on the faces of students, staff and families as they returned to school is a feeling I can’t quite describe, and it has been especially exciting to see our Propel Academy community return to a beautiful, new, state-of-the-art building.”

Leading design firm Stantec provided architecture, interior design, and civil engineering services for the facility. The urban fabric of Philadelphia’s Pennypack Park offered unique opportunities for the new K-8 school as students from typically urban areas are able to connect with nature. Taking cues from the site, the design team fully embraced next-gen learning and created a unique, vibrant design that connects students as one community.

All stakeholders were invited to explore design strategies and options in a collaborative and integrated fashion. Stantec’s knowledge of SDP’s standards and ability to navigate Philadelphia’s regulatory agencies helped the project team remain on schedule. The team also embraced principles guided by LEED for Schools and WELL Building Standards for Educational Facilities in many components of the school’s design.

Gilbane Building Company served as the design-builder, and Gilbane Development Company as the developer. To date, Gilbane has overseen more than $3.5 billion in P3 projects, with 40 projects completed or underway.

©Copyright 2008-2021 AIA Philadelphia. All Rights Reserved.