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Historic dairy plant and milk bottle eyed for mixed-use project

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The project would bring commercial and residential spaces

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Update: The proposal for this project was withdrawn from the website and the Architectural Committee agenda by the afternoon of June 20. A representative from Landmark was not immediately available for comment on why.


A proposal that was set to go in front of the Architectural Committee this month suggested turning the building surrounding Kensington’s historic milk bottle sculpture into residential and commercial space, and—potentially—lowering the iconic piece in the process.

The project, which would be designed by Landmark Architectural Design, was published on the Historical Commission’s website recently, ahead of a June 27 meeting. It suggests demolishing the two mid sections of the former Harbisons Dairies plant at 2041-2055 Coral Street, and lowering the milk bottle structure into a partially enclosed courtyard.

Vincent Mancini of Landmark, says the goal of the project would be to “retain a majority of the historic portion” of Harbisons Dairies structure while still finding a new use for the building. It is currently being used as a warehouse.

He said a section of the building, where the milk processing used to be held, would be converted into a commercial (and possible restaurant) space. The southern portion of the former plant would be converted into upper floor residences and lower floor parking, Mancini said, stressing that the plans were still in their early stages. There is already a 14-unit condominium in the building, but it’s on the far end of the structure, at 2042 Amber Street, and is not involved in the proposal.

A courtyard would be in the middle of the structure, and the milk bottle would be lowered into that, in order to better incorporate it into the space. Mancini said bringing it into the courtyard would help residents and visitors to the space see the bottle a little more clearly.

Part of the courtyard would be open to the street, so passers-by would still be able to see the bottle, Mancini said, comparing the end result to Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin in Center City.

“It’s an exciting proposal, which we think will be welcome by the Architectural Committee and Historic Commission,” Mancini said. He added that several other projects have suggested demolishing much of the iconic bottle and building. The one would try to preserve a lot of it, especially the facade and sculpture.

The milk bottle, which is actually a water tower, and the four buildings that surround it, all once made up the Harbisons Dairies plant. They were all placed on the historic register in January. That classification means they cannot be demolished or majorly altered without permission from the Philadelphia Historical Commission.