James Corner Field Operations to lead master plan update for the Philadelphia Navy Yard

Familiar Ground

James Corner Field Operations to lead master plan update for the Philadelphia Navy Yard

Streetcape view the historic core of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a military installation-turned-mixed-use urban development. (Courtesy PIDC)

Landscape architecture and urban design firm James Corner Field Operations has been selected by PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private development corporation, to lead an update and expansion of the Philadelphia Navy Yard master plan. The initial master plan for the 1,200-acre mixed-use campus, located at a centuries-old naval shipyard in the Pennsport section of South Philadelphia, was developed in 2004 by Robert A.M. Stern Architects; RAMSA, working with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Pennoni Associates, also headed a 2013 update to the master plan.

Per an announcement from the Navy Yard, this second update/expansion, set to be released in the spring of 2022, will reflect development that has occurred since the 2013 Navy Yard Master Plan Update while incorporating and refining a mixed-use program for 109 acres of the site, headed by the development team of Ensemble Real Estate Investments and Mosaic Development Partners.

“The master plan update will communicate not only what will be in the Navy Yard but how people will get to it, and once there, how they can make the best use of the campus,” reads the press release.

Multimodal transportation options, sustainable infrastructure, and energy distributions systems are described as being “crucial components” of the update and are expected to be integrated into a “compelling and achievable framework that positions the Navy Yard to deliver a dynamic, expanded commercial and mixed-use campus with a distinctive, integrated sense of place that attracts businesses and creates a vibrant new multi-family residential community.”

On that note, the upcoming $2.5 billion development phase will include the very first residential project at the sprawling Navy Yard complex, which currently includes over 7.5 million square feet of retail, industrial, institutional, research and development, and commercial office space but not a single square foot of housing. Collectively, the Navy Yard community holds 15,000 employees. Urban Outfitters and GlaxoSmithKline are both major presences at the Navy Yard as are Jefferson Health, Penn State University, and the U.S. Navy along with a slew of technology, manufacturing, and life sciences companies.

Although headquartered in New York City, Field Operations already enjoys a considerable presence at the Navy Yard—the firm designed the complex’s landmark 5-acre green space, the Central Green—and in Philadelphia in general. The Race Street Pier, a transformative riverfront park along the Center City riverfront, is also a Field Operations project. Firm founder and director, James Corner, also has long and deep ties to the city. The England-born Corner, who was last month elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is a 1986 graduate of the University of the Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design where he earned his Master of Landscape of Architecture. He has served on the faculty of the school’s Department of Landscape Architecture since 1989 and as a departmental chair from 2000 to 2012. In addition to its main office in Manhattan, Field Operations also maintains offices in Philadelphia, where it was first founded, as well as in San Francisco, London, and Shenzhen.

In a statement, Corner referred to the selection of Field Operations to lead the master plan update as an “ … opportunity to weave together the Navy Yard’s diverse offerings into a powerful vision for its future.” He added: “With new residential and retail development, we imagine the Navy Yard as a place that prioritizes both people and the environment—a place that connects with its surrounding communities and provides space for future building projects—a new cohesive neighborhood with an extraordinary public realm.”

Field Operations was selected to lead the new master plan update as part of a highly competitive RFP process in which 33 local, national, and international teams applied; seven made the interview process. As noted in the announcement, the “robust response underscores the excitement and interest of the next phase of development at the Navy Yard. Teams were required to demonstrate experience with projects of similar type and scale, a dynamic vision for a successful mixed-use campus, and a high level of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The Field Operations-led master plan team includes 13 subject matter expert consulting firms. They are: DIGSAU (architecture), Pennoni Associates (infrastructure), David Mason and Associates (civil engineering), Re: Vision Architecture (LEED for Neighborhood Development), Amber Art and Design (arts-based engagement), Dharam Consulting (cost estimating), Mdesign Consulting (housing affordability and inclusion), Toole Design (transportation), HERA Laboratory Partners (lab planning), Rodriguez Consulting (survey and civil engineering), Sherwood Design Engineers (resilience and integrated systems), THA Consulting (structured parking), and Urbane Development (community planning and workforce development.)

Over half of the above firms are certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBE/WBE) and most have presences in Philadelphia.

“Field Operations brings a fresh, creative, and inclusive approach that will drive an ambitious plan for new development at the Navy Yard,” said Kate McNamara, senior vice president of PIDC, in a statement. “The entire Field Operations team is deeply committed to creating a campus that preserves the Navy Yard’s unique identity, accelerates diverse business growth and job creation, and creates a dynamic new residential community with a compelling array of inclusive public spaces and amenities.”

The PIDC, Field Operations, and the Ensemble/Mosaic development team will be on hand to discuss the master plan update at an upcoming virtual “first look” event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. The May 6 event is open to the public.