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Architecture committee vetoes Fox skywalk

The committee approved the rest of the school’s planned renovations.

The Fox School of Business unveiled expansion plans before Philadelphia’s Architectural Committee meeting last week that was not completely approved because of an enclosed bridge, or skywalk. It would cross above Liacouras Walk to connect the historic townhouses that make up 1800-1818 Liacouras Walk with Alter Hall.

The committee recommended the rest of the project for approval by the Historical Commission, but voted 4-1 against the skywalk.

The rest of the proposal features cosmetic changes and physical expansions to existing buildings, PlanPhilly reported, which holds most of its classes in Alter Hall. These changes include adding floors and terracotta screening to the building.

The project would further change the preserved townhouses that make up 1800-1818 Liacouras Walk, which is part of the small Park Avenue Historic District. The committee voted unanimously in favor of these renovations.

The Park Avenue Historic District is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which means the Historical Commission must oversee and approve any of the alterations Fox is planning.

The skywalk, set just next to the historic homes, would be narrow and made of clear glass to “minimize any possible intrusion on the historic fabric,” lead architect Leonardo Diaz said during the meeting, PlanPhilly reported.

“This expansion is brought on by the extraordinary success of the Fox School of Business,” Diaz told the committee.

School officials said the skywalk would create a positive connection between neighboring Fox-affiliated buildings. 1810 Liacouras Walk will become a part of the Fox School in Fall 2017 as Student Health Services and Tuttleman Counseling Services begin its move to 1700 N. Broad Street.

“The skywalk would be a great addition,” freshman marketing and economics major Alfonso Corona said.

“It’s a key part of an expansion of the business school,” Corona added. “The expansion is important because it will draw more students to apply. … I think it’d be great if Temple became more of a presence nationally as a top university, especially for business.”

Dozie Ibeh, the vice president of Temple’s Project Delivery Group, told the committee the feeling of Alter Hall would be captured in the proposed construction.

He argued against historic concerns, claiming the “historical fabric of the townhouses would stay intact.”

Committee member John Cluver voted alone in favor of the skywalk. He said because the Park Avenue Historic District — the buildings from 1800 to 1946 Park Avenue, which is now called Liacouras Walk — exists on only one side of the street, the expansions wouldn’t be disruptive.

One of Philadelphia’s historic preservation planners Randal Baron recommended the committee vote against the skywalk. The bridge, he said, would likely “interrupt the continuity of the street.”

“This is not a corporate campus,” where sensitive information is bought and sold, quickly committee member Amy Stein, who voted against the proposed skywalk. “It’s an academic campus. The idea of putting a bridge there is anti-intuitive to being integrated into that urban environment that Temple exists within,” she said.

“Of all the elements, I agree that the bridge is the most problematic,” committee member Dan McCoubrey said. He said the bridge didn’t fit an academic setting, not conducive to “mingling and community building.”

When Stein suggested considering a tunnel instead, Temple officials said that utilities beneath Liacouras Walk would make this impossible.

Despite the loss of the skywalk, Ibeh said in a statement that the university is “pleased with the Architectural Committee’s unanimous recommendation for approval of the planned renovation of the 1810 Liacouras Walk building.” He went on to say the university is continually working to meet the needs of Fox’s “growing faculty and student body.”

The renovations are part of Fox’s centennial celebration, the school’s senior vice dean, Diana Breslin-Knudsen, told The Temple News in July 2016.

Fox is currently awaiting approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission to move forward on the project.

Noah Tanen can be reached at noah.tanen@temple.edu.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article improperly attributed the proposed cosmetic changes to 1800 Liacouras as information from Chris Vito, a spokesman for the Fox School of Business. The information came from PlanPhilly.

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