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    The Idea Box - Entrepreneur Hub in PHL

    There is a building I pass daily. It is a cube of beige, 8 floors total, but uniquely set with street front on a major throughway (Walnut Street), but as this road is elevated at this point, to cross the river, the building itself is set  on the lower "cross-street" of 24th Street. This presents 5 floors visible from Walnut street and three reserved and more private below. This building has been renovated slowly over the past year. The curtain walls were cut for more glass to be installed, allowing for a more prominent street (Walnut) face as well as overall interior day-lighting, even if this means the structural columns are "showcased" [see below].

    SE corner, Walnut Street, stairs down to 24th Street, notice columns adjacent to windows

    What strikes me about this building, as with many instances in real estate, is location, location, location. The building itself is somewhat bland, but it is on Walnut Street, a major connector between center city and the university area, there is a bike lane, access to the highway, and diagonally across the river is 30th Street Station - home to Amtrak and the public transit system - both regional rail and subway/trolley lines. Also, it's proximity to the river means its adjacent to the Schuylkill River Park, which also is a great pedestrian and bicycle connector.

    Walnut Street, major connector with highway access and bike lane.

    View along the western face - parking, river park, 30th Street Station

    So why the rambling description of this property? Because this building lends itself to a function. This generic building is dying to be the LynFabric (Lightning Factory) of Philadelphia. I think of it in terms of an entrepreneurial incubator, but essentially it would be the same thing.

    As you may recall, a while ago I shared with you the business model of the LynFabric (Lightning Factory) in Aarhus, Denmark. To recap LynFabrik is a shared space for creative professionals - offering officehoteling, gallery, and studio/workshop space, as well as a cafe all of which are designed to allow the intermingling of solo or small group creative practitioners - and the cafe is open to the public and sells wares from around the world (though it is located on the roof, so it isn't overwhelmed, though it does stay busy).

    This building has the potential to embody this idea. First off, the main entrance on Walnut Street has huge windows - pedestrians will see what is going on inside - so on this floor could showcase the work being done by the various occupants. Perhaps where informal and formal meetings can be held - space for display and discussion. Almost the physical manifestation of the Quirky concept. Pedestrians could see the progress and the potential being created here - the energy of the entrepreneur. Also, the space could be used for more formal gallery style openings. The floors above this main floor would house work space, open office layout with enclosed rooms available for sound/video editing and the like. The open layout encourages interaction between business and this idea is furthered with a rooftop garden and cafe which, like the LynFabrik, would be open to the public, but not street side marked. This semi-private notion has many reasons, perhaps the most pertinent being that it is not the focus of the enterprise, though it does provide an revenue stream outside of the tenant fees.

    As for the lower three floors, they would be additional work space and fabrication space - 3D printer, CNC machine, perhaps even the old school wood working and the like. This could be its own business, like Next Fab Studio just offering its services at discount to those who work out of the Incubator.

    Ramp to North entrance off of 24th Street

    This is prime location for this small creative professional hub because it is easily accessible without a car, is smack in between the central business district and the universities (hello ideas and energy, goodbye brain-drain), and its riverfront location allows for showcasing its presence. 

    There is plenty of entrepreneurial spirit in Philadelphia - this could be its concentrated embodiment. Also, given its general shape, regardless of what the building would be called formally - be it Innovation Incubator, or The Idea Box, what have you... - the informal, viral, nickname would be The Cube.


    1. Brilliant idea. I can't wait to see that building become more than an empty shell.

    2. Bring on the Idea Box...think we could get jobs there then? It'd be one hell of a commute :) Unfortunately I have a feeling we will be disappointed and see this turn into another cube of cubicles.

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