Downloadable PDF: Old City Design Guide

Old City Design Guide


Historic neighborhoods like Old City do not materialize overnight, and while their buildings transcend generations, it is the people that bring them to life. In order to generate long term value, real estate development must consider more than the financial return of the next seven years. Rather, development should build wealth over decades by contributing to the value of neighboring properties. By the same measure, buildings can support civic life by connecting people, providing opportunities for planned and spontaneous meetings, and serving as a backdrop for memories of times well spent.

The Old City Design Guide is meant as a reference for property owners, developers, architects, and shopfront entrepreneurs. It is not intended as a regulatory document, but rather a tool for those invested in Old City. This Design Guide begins with a presentation of the types of development opportunities available in Old City and an outline of the policy positions of the Old City District in its role as Registered Community Organization, which weighs in on projects requesting variances or special exception permits. After a presentation of four development imperatives and guidelines for new buildings, shopfront design, and curbside options, it
concludes with a summary of the most applicable zoning regulations and some other especially useful design guides.

The Design Guide introduces four imperatives, or principles, that should be considered by any and all property improvement.  Thereafter, it describes the critical characteristics of new buildings meant to fit into Old City, and storefront design that enlivens the street. The latter should be considered by new construction and renovation alike, by property owners and tenants.


The Old City Design Guide was featured as a "Preservation Win" in the PennPraxis Neighborhood Preservation Toolkitpublished in 2018.


Media Coverage:

Gentle Reminder: Old City District Comes Up With Design Guide Philadelphia Business Journal

Old City District Releases Design Guide Amid Development Boom Curbed Philadelphia