Over its lifespan Live Arts/Philly Fringe has converted several old buildings in Old City and Northern Liberties into their administrative and rehearsal spaces. But the organization has long-sought a permanent home, partly because the strain of continually adapting their rented spaces takes focus away from the process of making and presenting art.
Before finding the pump house, Live Arts/Philly Fringe looked at lots of other buildings, including the former Ortleib Brewery at American and 3rd streets. In the former pump house, Live Arts/Philly Fringe found just what they were seeking: An interesting building in a great neighborhood, with enough space also that came with the ability to create an outdoor space. And the price was right. Sold.
Just before this year’s festival opened, Nick Stuccio, the Producing Director of Live Arts/Philly Fringe, showed me around their future home.
Inside the former High Pressure Fire Service building are the remains of a 20th century pump house, built to feed a system of high-pressure fire hydrants in Center City and Kensington. There are huge pipes, valves big enough to steer a ship, panels of analog meters and dials, a giant piston, industrial gantry, and a row of what look like oversized car batteries. All of this infrastructure comes with the building’s “as-is” sale, and will be up to Live Arts/Philly Fringe to dismantle and sell if possible. Some of these relics will be reused as part of the décor.
Live Arts/Philly Fringe is working with a design team from WRT on plans for converting the 10,000 square-foot building.
The interior space will be divided roughly into thirds: The front (east) end will be the social space - a gastro-pub and commercial kitchen, open to the street and river beyond. The building’s 30-foot ceilings provide enough room for a new theater/event space in the center, and will accommodate two stories of office space in the rear (west) third of the building. Outside, along Race Street, they’ll create a plaza for seasonal events and outdoor seating.