“Lions Gate at Penn State Abington, a transformative redevelopment project that culminated in a unique student living facility for Pennsylvania State University, received a 2018 Montgomery Award for innovative design, community investment, and sustainable practices,” according to a statement from the Montgomery County Planning Commission. “This project involved the repurposing of a vacated site, creative and sensitive design, and important community connections.”
This residential development is located at 1001 Old York Road in Abington Township.
The statement continued by noting that “Lions Gate is the first residential facility at Penn State Abington. Located along a spur of the Route 611/Old York Road corridor, approximately a mile from the college campus, this unique student living apartment complex expands the university’s public presence in this historic community while confirming its place as a prominent stakeholder.”
“The university collaborated with Old York Road Temple-Beth Am synagogue, a neighbor to the south, to create additional parking along the Old York Road spur and participated in neighborhood and public meetings to ensure community support,” according to the statement. “The project received a grant from the Multimodal Transportation Fund and collaborated with municipal leadership to create a walkable environment. Its proximity to campus, a shuttle van, and a sidewalk and trail system through the neighborhood reduce student commuter impacts on traffic and parking.”
According to the Montgomery County Planning Commission statement, the location of Lions Gate at Penn State Abington “is also close to the Noble Town Center and station, as well as the library, YMCA, and Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health, and promotes walking and bicycling to shops, restaurants, and transit. This former car dealership property now houses 400 students who shop locally for supplies, food, and entertainment.”
“The five-story building, which has 86 apartments containing 400 beds, provides a hybrid living experience for first-year students, integrating the social aspects of traditional dorm life with private apartment living,” the statement continued. “The unique Z-shape configuration on the site minimizes the mass of the building by making it impossible to experience the entire structure from one viewpoint. This unique design also creates usable space and a sense of place.”
A total of 140,850 square feet is included in this residential complex.
“The internal angle at the front becomes the perfect place for the long, covered entrance that creates a sense of arrival,” according to the statement from the Montgomery County Planning Commission. “This is complemented by connecting walkways, seating walls, and appealing gathering spaces, which are enhanced by the beautiful and functional rain gardens that create natural places for students to socialize. The internal angle at the rear creates a place for a more private sitting area and lawn for informal games. Although the viewer only sees a restful green space, this area also doubles as a fire lane.”
The 2018 Montgomery Award to Lions Gate at Penn State Abington noted that the building materials used, including a variety of brickwork, local Wissahickon schist, and exposed steel, combine to create a sleek, modern building that successfully blends into the fabric of the neighborhood. This building not only provides for much-needed student housing but also has transformed a neglected site into a community asset.”
According to the Montgomery County Planning Commission statement, “This 2.7-acre site, which is surrounded by a residential neighborhood as well as the synagogue, was formerly an automobile dealership with approximately 95 percent impervious coverage and no stormwater management. Now with approximately 50 percent impervious coverage, the environmentally sensitive site design integrates the unique building configuration with just enough parking for staff. This new sustainable landscape combines usable outdoor space with attractive and functional bioretention swales and rain gardens.”
“Two underground detention basins also contribute to stormwater management, dramatically reducing the total runoff from the site,” continued the statement. “The LEED Gold certified building, which includes extensive daylighting with operable windows, low-flow/dual-flush plumbing fixtures, and energy recovery units in each wing, was constructed using 100-year durability guidelines. This state-of-the-art sustainable student housing seamlessly accommodates the needs of the contemporary student.”
“Lions Gate at Penn State Abington is an outstanding example of successful site reuse and sustainable design,” concluded the statement from the Montgomery County Planning Commission. “This exemplary redevelopment project transformed a neglected site into a community amenity that helps to complete the fabric of Penn State University and Abington Township.”
Photographs are courtesy of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, 2018.