Within the next two years, the busy intersection at 13th and Montgomery will look very different if a proposal for the $50 million expansion of the Fox School of Business is carried out.
According to plans released by the Office of Facilities Management, Curtis Hall will be demolished to make room for a new building that will be part of the business school.
“There are only a couple sites available [for the expansion],” said Associate Vice President of Facilities Management, Robert Buchholz, “It’s a very tight campus. We’re looking at Curtis because it’s an old building and needs a lot of upgrades.”
University officials have hired The Hillier Group to do a programming survey that will determine what space is available, the full needs of the business school and what accommodations will need to be made a if a new building is constructed that will solely be used by the business school.
The group started a 120-day building survey on Oct. 22.
Buchholz said that the row homes on the 1800 block of Liacouras Walk are also under consideration for the expansion.
However, the 107-year old buildings are protected from alterations that will change their historic nature, according to a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Historic Commission.
The row homes, along with the recently renovated buildings on the 1900 block of Liacouras Walk, were certified as historic buildings in 1990.
Students and employees at both the 51,388 square foot Curtis Hall and the 46,600 square foot row homes have mixed feelings about the expansion project.
Curtis Hall houses the Academic Resource Center as well as four floors of classrooms and offices.
The row homes contain the offices of Specta Guard.
Specta Guard is the company that provides security services for the university, and is the only occupant of the homes.
Many employees and students who use Curtis Hall have said they would look forward to a more modern building.
Some, though, are concerned about classroom and office relocations; others feel it’s too early to be worried.
Most Specta Guard employees would like to see a renovation of the Liacouras Walk buildings.
Inside the homes, large sections of the walls are crumbling or completely missing and floorboards on the second and third floors are weak and rotting.
“We hate it here,” said one Specta Guard employee, who asked not to be named, “We only stay on the first floor because we’re afraid to go anywhere else in the home. We need a better place for our office.”
However, any renovation of the homes would have to follow the guidelines of the Historical Commission, said Buchholz.
Historic status gives the Commission jurisdiction over any work that requires a building permit or would change the appearance of the properties.
“We met with the Philadelphia historic folks for the shops that went in on Liacouras Walk and there were certain things that we were allowed to do and certain things we were not allowed to do,” Buchholz said, “You have to take a look at what you’re impacting that’s historical.”
Renovation of either site will be under state control, Buchholz said, because the university is receiving state funding for the project.
“The state will pick the architect to do the project and have control over the design and construction,” Buchholz said.
Business school officials say a modern building is required to maintain the school’s recognition as an international business school and regional center for research, training and business education.
“Right now we’re trying to find out what’s the best way to rearrange the business school,” Buchholz said.
“The anticipation is that we’re not going to be able to fit the students that use Curtis now, into the new building. But the business school has office space across campus and we’re going to take a look and see if we can let those pieces fit in for the people who use Curtis.”
“We’re trying to resolve all the issues surrounding the expansion,” Buchholz said.
“We need to find what the cost of knocking down Curtis and putting it there will be versus trying something at 1800.”
When completed, the new facility is expected to include lecture halls, classrooms, offices and student lounges.
Chris Powell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org