The new—and long-anticipated—Comcast Technology Center, is proof that opposites attract.
Trees and wood on the ground floor create an earthy feel, while upstairs, the office areas scream industrial-chic. Head up a few more floors, and the Four Seasons hotel bedrooms combine the two (along with Parkway views).
“It gives a different personality on every floor,” Karen Dougherty Buchholz, Senior VP of administration for Comcast, said about the space.
We got a peek inside the long-awaited development Monday, as the new Comcast Technology Center slowly rolls out its opening. Right now, the building at 1800 Arch Street—which sits just across the street from its sister tower, the Comcast Center—has around 1,000 employees working there. When the $1.5 billion project is completed in the spring, it will have around 4,000 Comcast employees and 500 hotel employees. Hotel officials expect about 70 percent of the employees for the Four Seasons will already be Philadelphia-based, but that there will be a number of employees moving into the city to work.
The place broke ground in 2014 and when it’s completed, it will be a 60-story high-rise, towering over the other city buildings. It’s easily the tallest building in Philly, and actually marks the 9th tallest building in the United States, according to officials.
Inside the 60-story tower, there’s a lobby, Comcast and NBC offices, a cafeteria, and a cafe. The top floors will hold a Four Seasons Hotel and a high-end restaurant by restauranteur Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Check out some of what the building has to offer so far—and some of what’s coming—below.
The first floor lobby holds an open, earthy space, with wood tile floors, and real oak trees growing by the sides of the room. The walls and ceilings are decked out in wood paneling, and the front-facing wall is all glass, letting in tons of light and a view of the original Comcast Center next door.
The key phrase, which Buchholz repeated several times on the tour, is “vertical campus.” The new building is meant to integrate itself wholly with the original Comcast Center, as a campus, while still retaining its individuality. The original building next door, is boxy and glassy, and very contemporary; the new building has a natural, creative, and artistic feel.
Sleek silver elevators travel up to the second floor, where a Greg Vernick cafe sits, waiting to open. To the left, a large glassy, white orb fills the space, complemented by silver-paneled walls.
Ben Shank, general manager of the Four Seasons, said the second floor is meant to be a public space, serving Umbria coffee from Seattle—a new visitor to the Philly area.
The Common Space
Upstairs, the next few stories give a glimpse into the lives of the Comcast employees working there. On the sixth floor, the elevator doors swing open to face a wall that holds a wood panel with holes and red pegs.
In such a high-tech space, this is a “low tech” wall Buchholz said. It’s a place for employees to play around while they wait for the elevator, moving the red pegs to different holes, creating designs and words, she explained.
That’s just one little detail among many that the Comcast floors hold. Art from local artists decorates the walls of the main hallway in bright yellow and blue abstract designs.
At the end of the hallway is a loft common room space, with giant glass windows that look out over Center City. The actual offices sit to the left, and overhead.
A TV sits back in a stand-alone wall in the center of the room, and a ping pong table sits in back, complete with two people playing as Buchholz spoke.
“Everyone works in a different environment,” she said, explaining that some deal better with a high energy environment. Others need a quiet—or even silent—space to work. They tried to design floors that would fit everyone’s need.
To the left, the actual Comcast offices offer an open floor plan, with concrete walls, a red, boxy ceiling, and industrial elements. Even the whiteboards are unique—triangular and curved, sitting in the middle of the room. The hallways are lined with office spaces that hold glass doors.
On another upper floor, the cafeteria holds a lot of interesting details. It’s designed in a kind of farmhouse-style aesthetic; beginning with a hallway that has exposed wood beams, wood paneling, and strings of Edison bulbs hung from black wire through the hallway.
That opens out into the cafeteria, which has the same exposed wood detail, with a wall of herbs growing in the back.
Another hallway features black painted barn “doors” set as decoration against the wall. In the actual dining area, tables sit alongside a wall of windows that gaze out over Center City. Again, Buchholz brings up the “vertical campus.” It’s a constant reminder that you’re working within the city, she said. The city is the employees’ campus.
The Four Seasons Rooms
The hotel rooms for the Four Seasons sit on the top floors. There are about 24 rooms per floor and 219 rooms in total. They will range in price depending on the time of year, but they’re expected to start at above $600 per night, Shank said.
The guest rooms range from 350 to 450 square feet, while the suites can reach 850 square feet.
They mainly sit on the north side—with views over the Parkway—and the south side—with views over Center City.
But if it’s not the views that serve as an attraction, the design of the rooms might do it. The rooms are white and beige, with speakers, voice-activated TVs, and a Four Seasons chat feature, which connects to an app on your phone. The kicker, though, is the birch-paneled wall, which surrounds the bathroom.
Shank said the decision to bring wood into the space was borne from a desire to make it more homey and warm. But—while it was only partially intentional on Four Seasons’ part—the wood also serves a connection to the first floor lobby, with its wood tile floors and live trees.
The whole building tops off with a high-end restaurant, headed up by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. While the space is still deep in the stages of construction, it holds a lot of signifiers of what’s to come.
Chief among those are the windows, which line the 60th floor from wall to wall, with almost nothing in between. The entire space is open to the views of the surrounding city, and that’s further enhanced by the mirror ceiling, which is positioned in such a way that it catches the views and reflects them back to diners below.
The building is slated to open in the spring, though Shank said the rooms may not be ready to stay in by that date. Time will tell.
For now, at least the interior of Philly’s biggest glass structure is no longer a mystery.
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