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Revisioning the Sterling Apartments

October 27th, 2011

BartonPartners was commissioned by Aimco to design comprehensive renovations to the Sterling. Located in Center City Philadelphia and built in 1961, the Sterling is a mixed use, 29 story building with 535 apartments, ground level retail, three stories of office space, and a single-level below grade parking garage for 125 cars. The property is owned and managed by Apartment Investment and Management Company (Aimco), a national REIT that engages in the acquisition, ownership, management, and redevelopment of apartment properties.

The building’s exterior, common spaces, apartments, and amenity spaces were all outdated, not attracting or meeting the needs of the target customers. The target customer segments include young professionals, students, and empty nesters. Per Wes Powell, VP of Development at Aimco, “The Redevelopment Vision will add value by fully leveraging the property’s three primary intrinsic competitive advantages: its prime center city location, a variety of floor plan offerings in two distinct tiers, and its rooftop amenity”

Phase 1 renovations, completed in 2010, included renovating the first floor public and leasing spaces. The new interior layout is more efficient and functional, with a “transitional warm” design, reminiscent of a boutique hotel. Clean, contemporary lines in the spaces are balanced with warm natural woods and accents of color. A new contemporary glass wall, fireplace, lighting, area rugs, draperies, artwork, and plantings were also specified to enhance the public spaces.

Phase 2 renovations, scheduled to start construction in Spring 2012, includes the balance of the redevelopment improvements. The rooftop pool and deck enhancements include a new raised social deck, designed for three-season outdoor use. Designed to be the “best-in-market amenity”, the social deck will better capture spectacular views of the city sky­line. The deck, covered with a new large roof-top canopy, will be used for outdoor eating, viewing large-screen TV, and resident social events. The remaining pool deck will feature a new contemporary metal and glass enclosure, planters and trees, and upgraded outdoor furnishings.

Just below the rooftop pool level, the 30th floor fitness center will be expanded and completely upgraded. A new two-story high addition will provide much needed space for the residents, with tremendous daylight and views to the City. An open balcony on the 31st floor pool level will overlook the new high volume space, integrating the two major recreational amenities for all residents.

Interior renovations include a 5th floor resi­dent business & study lounge, with laptop workstations, three conference rooms fully equipped with A/V, lounge seating, and coffee station. Additionally, the common corridors and elevator lobbies on the residential floors 5-29, will have upgraded finishes, lighting, furnishings, and art­work.

The exterior façade & lighting upgrades include both daytime and night-time enhancements. The daytime improvements involve introducing new colors to the exterior black wall panels and window frames on the 2nd thru 4th floor levels. The new specified paint coating system is a relatively low cost/high impact solution to enliven the building’s daytime image from the street level. The night-time improvements involve new exterior facade lighting. New street level lighting will make the building more inviting and safer at night, and create a more vibrant retail presence in the heart of the business district. On the cityscape scale, horizontal LED light bands will be added to the existing continuous building wall panels to enliven all four facades. Warm white lighting will accent the new large rooftop canopy and perim­eter deck enclosure, with colored accent lighting inside the sub-roof enclosure below, creating a dramatic new night-time image for the Sterling.

Of course, upgrading all 535 apartment units is the heart of the property’s redevelopment. In general, the improvements include creating more open and enlarged kitchens, enlarging the bathrooms, adding more closet space, and upgrading the finishes, appliances, plumbing and lighting fixtures. Two distinct finish levels were established relating to the customer segments. On the lower floors 5-9, where the mix is primarily smaller studio and one bedroom units, the new finishes are fresh, clean, modern, and durable. On the upper floors 10-29, where the mix is weighted more toward larger two and three bedroom units commanding a variety of views, the design is up-scale and finishes are upgraded.