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Western Union Condominiums

 

Designed by William Welles Bosworth and built in 1922, the Western Union Telegraph Building is an industrial structure with Art Deco detailing. By the early 2000s, a host of inappropriate uses were proposed for the long-abandoned building, including as a parking garage. As a result of a community-led effort, CBP Architects combined adaptive reuse, historic preservation, and both an overbuild and new tower on an adjacent lot to reactivate the asset in its Washington West neighborhood. The award-winning Western Union Condominiums provide 100 residential units and ground-floor retail with a blend of historic and contemporary design language.

Designed to accommodate future floors of telegraph equipment, the building surprisingly had its original steel column extensions concealed on the rooftop. Because of the robust existing steel and foundations, an overbuild required little additional strengthening. Restoration involved masonry repairs, fenestration replacement, and recreation of the missing character-defining cornice, with input and approval from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Historic Commission.

To connect the residential neighborhood to the south with commercial and retail areas to the north, CBP Architects designed a series of masses to avoid the trap of historic replication and create an appropriately scaled neighborhood landmark. An elegant glass box tops the original Western Union structure. The two share a façade plane, separated by the shadow line of the condo terraces. The proportions of the glass box match those of the masonry building, with mullion spacing based on original window units. A new tower anchors the corner of the site and complements the stacked masses. Matching floor heights in the original and new structures allowed for high ceilings in the units; deep floor plates provide opportunities to create in-board bonus rooms and gallery-like space, and many residents selected units for the display of artwork. CBP Architects worked with several owners to design interior fit-outs, ranging from minor modifications to the consolidation of multiple units into single residences. For its stakeholder engagement and sensitive design, the project has become part of the neighborhood’s guidelines around positive land use and development.

  • Project Category

    Market Rate Multifamily

  • Client

    Western Union Partners

  • Location

    Philadelphia, PA

  • Number of Units

    100

  • Number of Stories

    12

  • Gross Floor Area

    210,000 sf

  • Program

    Adaptive Reuse, Historic Preservation, and New Construction