Frank Weise and the Redevelopment of Philadelphia

Washington Square East Redevelopment Plan & Camac

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The Redevelopment of the Washington Square East area of Philadelphia began in the late 1950’s as one part of a larger urban redevelopment plan, seeking to revitalize the center of the city. Various developers and architects were keen in this area because of ample opportunities of building activity here. Some of the lots were already built while some were empty. Besides possibilities of growth there were challenges of integrating the built homes.

   

The Washington Square East plan was bounded on the north by Walnut Street, on East by Delaware Avenue, on the West by Seventh Street and Lombard Street on the South. The plan for the area was to provide additional housing in the form of high rise apartments, preservation of historic buildings and transformation of existing structures into single family homes or apartments and interspersed with small neighborhood business. One of the major catalysts for redevelopment was the migration of middle and upper income people leaving the city for the suburbs and much of the neighborhood transformation was catered to them.

The need for green space, privacy on housing blocks and schools are elements that were deemed necessary. The zoning dictated that the area be reconstituted as a residential area with a mix of small neighborhood businesses interspersed and integration of both small scale buildings and larger scale high rises.

The residential building projects that developed during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in Philadelphia were a response to the redevelopment plans and a need for additional housing in the style of traditional urban dwellings and newer forms of apartments. The architect Frank Weise contributed a variety of dwellings that reflect the traditional row house form as well as larger scale, multiple family development projects. Much of his work from the early 1960’s can be seen along Lombard Street, east of Broad Street.

While he did not work exclusively within the boundaries of the Washington Square East Redevelopment Plan, his buildings are a product of the ideas and atmosphere in Philadelphia at that time. This particular development plan is a relevant point of reference because of its proximity to the area that Frank Weise was building in. As a result, the projects that Weise was designing for were determined by private developers who had ideas about what kind of buildings the neighborhood needed that in some cases differed from those of the Washington Square East Plan. The developer that Frank Weise worked with in his design of Camac Village was not interested in the high rise apartments that were prevalent in the Washington Square East plan and other development areas.