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  • Writer's picturePhillips & Donovan Architects, LLC

Turning an Eyesore into a Community Asset

After providing architectural services to Doylestown Borough to explore the design of modern, appropriately sized administrative offices, public meeting spaces, and regional police facilities at several potential locations for almost fifteen years, we began a collaborative process with the Borough to program and master plan a total renovation and adaptive reuse of a significant building in the Borough's heart in 2019. It was completed in 2022. See the "before" photos below.

The building was a soon-to-be-vacated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation administrative office, vehicle maintenance and storage complex. It would be ideal - located just west of the center of the Borough, it was an eyesore in a part of the community undergoing extensive redevelopment. The Lantern Hill planned community neighborhood was close by. New infill townhomes were also built in the area, new retail spaces were added, and the recently built courthouse was a block away. Re-purposing the PennDOT building made good sense because of its location and size.

We had been working with the previous owner of the property, Heritage Conservancy, on and off for almost twenty years to plan for appropriate adaptive reuse. The premises had fallen into disrepair and needed total renovation. The structure and open maintenance/storage yard portion of the site was a prime and strategically located building that could easily house the Borough's administrative, meeting, and police department needs and provide a perfect location for a public borough park - now built - which would be an asset to the residents of that part of Doylestown. The entrance to the executive and meeting room spaces is located on an axis with the park's primary entrance and ties the two elements together as a whole.

Program elements include administrative offices, meeting spaces, and police facilities. After studying many conceptual alternatives, we located the administrative offices and meeting rooms primarily on the lower level of the building.

This allowed the new formal entrance lobby and façade to these very public uses to be on the same level and relate directly with the new community park. A few of the more private administrative management offices face the park and are located on the second floor just above that entrance. The police department is located on the upper level of the building and takes advantage of grade access on the uphill end of the site. An existing public entrance was upgraded and enhanced to provide civic access to police officers.

It was essential to Doylestown Borough that the aesthetics of the building be kept as original as possible. With that intent, the entire brick façade was cleaned and restored, and all-new, energy-efficient windows, which mimic the look of the originals, were installed. The brick for the new administrative and public meeting entrance was selected to match the existing brick as closely as possible. This brick is also evident in the monument signage and carries through to the community park's brick elements, giving cohesiveness to the properties.

The private areas of the administrative offices and the police facilities are kept separate and distinct from the public and each other. The police facilities are further separated by differing levels of security, moving from the most civic areas of the police administrative offices to the more secure police officer spaces, and the most secure sally port, interview, holding room, evidence processing, and evidence storage areas.

The adaptively reused building and new community park act as a gateway to the Borough from the northwest and amply provide for the municipal and police services required by the community.

In addition to our contributions to this project, there were many team members who contributed. Some of the team members were the civil engineer, Gilmore & Associates, Inc.; Phil Ehlinger, who contributed greatly to the park design, Doylestown Borough's Structural Engineer, GTA Inc., Consulting Engineers; mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer, Smith Miller Associates; interior designer, Interior Space & Design; and construction manager, Adams Bickel Associates, LLC. We are proud to have played our part in bringing this wonderful facility to a new life as a community asset.

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