Thursday, October 6, 2011

Site Planning: Retrofit

Here we have 1600 North Broad, Temple University's blasé but surprisingly handsome Brutalist-lite brick box built by Broad and Cecil B. Moore, the school's southern entrance. The law school's small bookstore (and large Starbucks), Wendy's, and on the upper three levels, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and possibly Honors College offices and classrooms, comprise this building.

While this would be a nice mix of uses most places on campus, here it's a little more questionable. This building is approximately 140x140 ft, with four full levels and a basement, offering floor space of just shy of 20k square feet per level (or 98k square feet in total); on top of that, the site also offers extension space of about 10 ft. more along Broad Street, and (potentially) up. It's also at the school's south gateway, by a large row of dormitories, and at the junction of two important commercial avenues (Broad and Cecil B. Moore), a block away from a large new grocer, and, in the opposite direction, the school's main gym facilities (Pearson and McGonigle Halls). It is, in short, a natural anchor.

It should be the school's main bookstore.

Currently, Temple's main bookstore is deep in the basement of the Student Center on 13th and Montgomery, accessed via a dropping concourse linked to a major cafeteria food court upstairs. It's a claustrophobic 5k square feet hidden at the rear of what effectively amounts to a cul-de-sac well away from the main centers of student activity (the Bell Tower, the Tech Center, Tyler lawn, Liacouras Walk, and the Northern and Southern Gateways). It is less visible than the rec rooms in the same building, and would be frankly unfindable were the prospective student not guided to it. Compared to the city's other major school stores (Drexel's, Penn's, St. Joe's, and La Salle's) it is, frankly, a disgrace.

Temple needs to capitalize on this opportunity and bring the main school store out, front and center, to the corner of Broad and Cecil B. Moore. 1600 North Broad has the room for it--more than what the law school is currently using. Meld the two into the same facility! Extend the retail space down to the basement and you'll have about 38k square feet for a good school store and the potential for a subway entrance as well. Or go whole hog and convert the entire building into a department store-lite--a grand collegiate emporium with a selection that puts Penn's school store to shame. With about 100k square feet, you could have a very large and roomy textbooks department on the top floor, a full Barnes & Noble on the next two levels, complete with Starbucks, an outfitter department on the ground floor for all those nifty Temple sweats, and a large dorm supplies department down in the basement. With so much square footage, you could even add makeup space, or you could structure the space to function like a vertical mall. You could even install a large atrium inside! The call is theirs.

This is aided in part due to the age of the classrooms and offices upstairs. A small field is available between Rock and Klein Halls: why not build a new STHM building there? That shifts the school functions away nicely and allows Temple the ability to concentrate on school-related commercial enterprise at its most meaningful junction: between classrooms, dorms, and the outside world.

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