Philadelphia — The Harman Group, a firm specializing in structural engineering and parking planning and design, celebrated the grand opening of The Aloft Philadelphia Downtown, a 179-room hotel that is an adaptive-reuse project occupying the historic Liberty Title and Trust building just one block from City Hall.
Nearly 90 years old, The Liberty Title and Trust building, designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm Savery & Scheetz, was originally a bank headquarters before its final tenure as an office building for the Philadelphia Water Department. Outside of retail space on the first floor, the building has been vacant for over 20 years.
The Harman Group provided façade restoration and structural engineering services on this project, developed by a partnership between Realen Properties and HRI Properties. Blackney Hayes Architects provided architectural services. In addition to the hotel, The Harman Group provided structural engineering services on a three-story steel-frame addition to the structure that connects the hotel to the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the corner of Broad and Arch streets.
The resulting adaptive design is evident in the new hotel rooms that occupy the space. Most have a unique geometry, ranging from 206 to 423 square feet, making no two rooms the same. The design team was able to mix the historic details with modern amenities and sweeping Center City views. These details are especially appreciated in the lobby where 30-foot-tall original windows, a plaster crown-molded ceiling, and marble flooring with mosaic tiling greet guests.
“This restoration was very exciting,” says Albert Meyer, senior project engineer. “The project brings new life to North Broad while maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the historic building.”
Due to the building’s age, the project presented many unique challenges, including no existing architectural or structural drawings of the 181,000-square-foot building. During the design phase, limited access and lighting, along with the presence of nearly all interior finishes in place, limited the ability to survey the existing building structure. Numerous unforeseen conditions, discovered during the process of demolition and construction, required additional structural design and revisions throughout the construction process.
The hotel’s addition, which will allow guests to walk to the convention center without leaving the building, presented another challenge in connecting the framing into the existing building for lateral support, as well as working within the tight constraints due to the limited space and construction directly adjacent to the existing convention center building.
At 101 North Broad Street, the hotel will revitalize the North Broad corridor and the Convention Center block, with 3,984 square feet of street-level retail space, function and event spaces, and the WXYZ bar that will be open to the public. There is also an outdoor space on the second level of the new addition, dubbed as “the Backyard.”
The Aloft Philadelphia Downtown is The Harman Group’s third project set to open in Center City, joining the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia and The Beacon apartment building overbuild. The Aloft will open for the Labor Day weekend.