When Desmone Architects moved into the former Pennsylvania National Bank Building at the corner of Penn and Butler in Lower Lawrenceville in 1993, they had just two neighbors: a nuisance bar and a transmission shop.
“Everything else was abandoned and empty,” recalls Chip Desmone, principal at Desmone Architects. “It was really a rough neighborhood.”
Fast-forward some 25 years and the area around Doughboy Square is home to some of the most sought-after real estate in town. Founded in 1958, Desmone had a staff of just five when they moved to Lawrenceville in 1993. Today Desmone employs 40 people, with plans to hire more in the near future.
There’s just one problem: there isn’t room for more workers in their 7,500-square-foot headquarters. So, after nearly a decade of internal planning and deliberations, Desmone has decided to stay in Lawrenceville and will expand the Bank Building with a nearly 17,400-square-foot project known as Two Doughboy Square.
“We have so much invested in the neighborhood, both emotionally and financially, that we just don’t want to leave it,” says Desmone.
The nearly $7 million dollar expansion will occur behind the existing structure, and will more than triple the office space for Desmone. It will include an upper level that can be leased to a third party, 18 new parking spaces and a garden/green space on the Penn Avenue side.
“You can’t copy this building,” Desmone says about the 1902 structure. Other than matching the Bank Building’s height and original orange-red “iron spot” brick, the new project will have a modern aesthetic: glass and steel beam on the Butler Ave. side and a more residential facade along Penn.
The firm has requested a $683,000 Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund from the Urban Redevelopment Authority which, along with the Lawrenceville Development Corporation, helped fund the restoration of the Bank Building in the early ’90s.
“The redevelopment of the former Pennsylvania National Bank Building by a partnership of Desmone Architects and the Lawrenceville Development Corporation was the project that put a stop to demolition, and began a two-decade effort of restoring and adaptively reusing one building at a time,” says URA Executive Director Robert Rubinstein.
“The market is now strong enough that those empty lots where demolition once took place are now filled with new infill construction.”
The firm, which also maintains a small office in Morgantown, West Virginia, takes on both interior residential design and commercial work. It’s been involved in numerous marquee projects in the area in recent years including the Alloy 26 coworking space, Carrick Dairy District pavilion, and the renovation of the Andy Warhol Museum’s first floor entrance, performance space and gift shop.
The team is also involved with another Lawrenceville project: the transformation of the former Washington Trade School at 40th Street into the boutique TRYP Hotel.
“It’s been wonderful to see how Lawrenceville has transformed itself from when we got here to what it is today,” he says. “It’s been great to be a part of it.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer.