SHIFT_DESIGN does not design iconic buildings or civic monuments, but it has nonetheless left an imprint on the built environment of the city through its bike corrals, parklets, planters and rooftop gardens, each of which form the building blocks of more sustainable and livable streets.
The Philadelphia-based firm’s latest project addresses the one of the city’s most pressing problem: vacant lots. In a video produced by Camera One, SHIFT_DESIGN announced its plan to build modular structures that could be placed on vacant lots and used by a range of occupants, from retail pop-up shops to health clinics.
SHIFT_DESIGN is currently refining the idea in the FastFWD business accelerator, a partnership between GoodCompany, the City of Philadelphia and Wharton Social Impact Initiative. The focus of the program’s first 12-week accelerator is public safety, which includes four subtopics, recidivism, vacant lots, neighborhood surveillance, enabling technology.
Mario Gentile, founder and CEO of SHIFT_DESIGN, explained that the firm had been considering this idea for a while. FastFWD offered an opportunity to make it a reality. “It was sort of on our wish list,” he said.
The initial goal was to design a uniform box that could be adapted for various uses and placed on vacant lots, Gentile said. The firm is now considering developing a set of boxes for specific uses, such as a farm box for urban farmers or a tech box for a software company. Gentile mentioned health care, art, retail and start-ups as other possible uses.
Through the FastFWD program, SHIFT_DESIGN has met with a number of government officials from different agencies to discuss the idea.
“So far, all of our meetings have been positive,” Gentile said. Although, there were some differing responses on the feasibility and legality of the idea, he added. How to get power to the boxes and how the zoning would work were two issues brought up by the officials.
As for where the boxes will be located, Gentile said they would focus on neighborhoods that are in a transitional phase.-30-
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