A key part of Kensington’ skyline—its iconic Harbison’s Dairy milk bottle—has once again become the center of attention for a group looking to redevelop the property surrounding the structure.
A plan to turn the Harbisons Dairies Plant at 2041-2055 Coral Street into apartments will go in front of the Historical Commission at a meeting next week. It suggests renovating three of the plant’s four buildings into residential space with 55 units total, ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments. The fourth building would be turned into office space and lower level loading and storage.
The historic and beloved milk bottle (which is actually an old water tower) would remain where it is now: above the four buildings, “maintaining visibility for the surrounding neighborhood,” project architects SgRA wrote in the proposal.
The factory, which dates back to the late 19th century and includes four adjacent buildings, would see a massive renovation process under SgRA’s proposal. They plan to clean and repoint the existing brick, limestone, and terra cotta facade; install new windows; and paint the original Harbisons logo on the milk bottle. SgRA also hopes to remove the roofs of the two middle buildings and construct three new stories to accommodate the planned residential units.
This is not first time developers and architects have tapped the historic dairy plant for an adaptive reuse project.
Several years ago, an older section of the plant—which isn’t included in SgRA’s current plans—was turned into a 13-unit condominium called the Milk Depot Building. Even while that section thrived, the four buildings that make up the main part of the factory remained warehouse space for years.
Then, in 2018, the milk bottle drew renewed attention when it was given a historic designation by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. That means anyone eager to make changes to or around the structure would have to get approval from the commission.
The first proposal for changes came just several months later, in June of 2018, when Landmark Architectural Design suggested a mixed-use development at the spot. It would include commercial and residential space, parking, and a courtyard in the middle. The milk bottle would be lowered into the courtyard so tenants could have a better view—a decision that didn’t sit well with some Kensington residents. Landmark pulled their design from consideration several days before a Historical Commission meeting to discuss their proposal, but didn’t give an explanation for their decision.
A representative for SgRA Architects wasn’t immediately available to comment on the design Tuesday afternoon.