Faced with Facade
There are many obstacles to overcome when changing anything about buildings in the city of Philadelphia. Chances are, change comes with a permit attached to it. However, facade changes, in particular, may require more attention than your regular Building Permit. To avoid getting those annoying requests for additional information that end up costing time and money, make sure you know whether or not your project needs a Facade Review before you turn in your Building Permit application.
Philadelphia Urban Design Division
Projects which involve making alterations to a building’s facade in certain parts of the city need to be reviewed by specialists. The city’s Urban Design Division within the City Planning Commission carefully curates the aesthetic of central Philadelphia and upholds the integrity of our downtown streetscapes. They do this by examining the physical design problems that arise in facade plans, as well as the cosmetic exterior modifications. And although it does add another hurdle to the already exhausting hurdling event of obtaining a permit, this extra step ensures Philadelphia is able to maintain the most significant elements of its commercial and cultural corridors.
Philadelphia Geographical Boundaries for Facade Review
Not all projects need this (literal) stamp of approval, but if your facade alteration is within the limits of the streets listed below, you might be heading to the 13th floor of 1515 Arch Street:
- South Broad Street (between City Hall and Washington Ave)
- Market Street (between 6t St. and Schuylkill River)
- Chestnut Street (between 6t St. and Schuylkill River)
- Walnut Street (between 6t St. and Schuylkill River)
The Urban Design Division is a thorough group. If any alterations are made on the inside of a building that can be seen by anyone on the street, then it is considered part of the facade of a building and is therefore subject to this review. Therefore, these interior modifications must also be noted on the facade plans submitted to the committee.
It is important to note that reviews can take up to 60 days complete. However, the length of the review period is ultimately determined by the scope and size of the project. Quite often the review period for a project will be less than sixty days and can be as short as one business day.
City Planning Commission Philadelphia Submission Requirements
On a recent project submission for Facade review, we searched far and wide on the CPC’s website to find exact submission guidelines. They do not have such guidelines and requirements on the website, but we did track down the head of the department. Here is what you will need to provide:
- Elevation plans
- What is the extent of the facade alterations? What are the current/existing conditions, current material, etc?
- What are the proposed new conditions?
- What materials will be used?
- Specify if you are changing (increasing or decreasing) the window and door sizes. (NOTE: Decreases are generally not authorized)
The plans themselves must receive a stamp of approval from the CPC. However, to avoid destroying an entire forest of trees, you can submit the plans and all associated details via email to the facade review director at the CPC (we are unable to provide this contact publicly. Reach out to us privately to work with us on a project and we can supply this information.)
Someone from your design team may negotiate and go back and forth via email or via an in-person meeting until the final plans are approved by the CPC. After you receive the final word of approval, you must print 6 sets of the plans and take them down to the City Planning Commission office in order to receive the final stamp of approval.