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City of Philadelphia

For Construction Projects

Pursuant to section 5-903 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter:

The Art Commission shall..Approve the design and proposed location of any building, bridge and its approaches, arch, gate, fence, or other structure or fixture to be paid for, either wholly or in part from the City Treasury or for which the City or any other public authority is to furnish a site..
Applicants should forward to the Commission a package containing the following:

1. A cover letter requesting Commission approval and containing:

  • a narrative description of the project. Note, this is not merely a transmittal form, it must be a complete description of the proposal! This narrative should include applicable information on existing conditions of the site and functional reasons for the proposed actions as well as the proposed design. Revised or follow-up submissions need not repeat the project background information, but must describe how they differ from the original proposal and if applicable, respond to concerns expressed by the Committee or Commission .
  • the name, mailing address and e-mail address of the person to whom the decision should be sent and the name phone number and e-mail address of someone who can answer questions about the application.

2. Color photographs, taken at the time of application, showing the site and its immediate
surroundings as they presently exist. Online street views are not acceptable because they
may be years old, not showing current conditions
. Older photographs may be used only if
needed to illustrate a former condition that no longer exists, with explanation.

3. Drawings of the proposed design, drawn to scale, with all dimensions, materials, and colors
clearly labeled. The number of drawings required to adequately describe a proposal will vary
with the complexity of the project. A typical submission would include:

Site and Landscape Plan(s) - showing the location of the site with adjacent streets and land uses labeled and the location of all features and improvements on the site. Landscaping may be shown here or on a separate landscape plan.

Plan view of proposal

Elevations of proposal - All elevations of a structure should be shown. The main façade elevation should be rendered to accurately portray proposed materials and colors unless separate rendered views are also being provided.

For large projects in public locations, rendered views are encouraged and may be required.

Submit only the drawings needed to illustrate the portion of the project for which Commission approval is needed. Please do not submit the entire project set unless asked to do so.

4. Project Budget, including sources of funding, particularly City of Philadelphia Capital funds.

5. All proposals for new construction, major additions and renovations which are to be paid for
wholly or in part with City funds must include a statement from the Public Art Office regarding
eligibility for the Percent for Art Program.

Commission staff may, upon reviewing the initial submission, request additional information such as color and material samples, sections or more detailed drawings or narrative of certain project elements, including interiors.

Commission staff will review the initial submission and determine which of the following types of review will be necessary:

Proposals which have no visual impact at all such as flat roof replacements or interior mechanical work may be signed off immediately by staff. Please note that staff must be able to verify that work is not visible by examining the submission materials. Please make sure that contractors seeking permits have all required materials listed above, along with the completed Building Permit Application with them when they visit the Commission office.

Routine proposals involving changes and repairs that will have minimal visual impact on their settings may receive what is known as an “administrative approval.” This means that staff determines that the proposal is acceptable and places it on the Commission’s next meeting agenda to be endorsed without further presentation. Final sign off on the Building Permit
Application will not occur until after the meeting.

Projects that will have more than a minimal visual impact, including all new construction and most additions and exterior alterations, will require presentation by the applicant to the Commission’s Art + Architecture Committee. Please note that reviews are not limited to exterior and site work. Information must be included for public interior spaces that will be affected by the proposed work. The Committee meets on the first Wednesday of each month. Its recommendations are then acted upon by the full Art Commission at its regular meeting which takes place immediately following the Committee meeting. Most proposals will require two reviews, for Concept and Final approvals. Concept approval should be sought early in the design process.

For proposals requiring presentations, the applicant must provide a total of three (3) hard copies and one PDF of the submission package, to be distributed to Commission members prior to the meeting. Copies must be collated into 3 packages and folded, if necessary, to 8½” x 11''. For the meeting presentation, applicants should bring a USB drive with their presentation along with material samples, models and any other information that will enable the Commission to fully understand the proposal. Please consider possible differences in layout between the packages for committee members’ individual review and the presentation which will be viewed on a large screen, to insure maximum legibility in each situation.

In order to be assured a place on a meeting agenda, the cover letter must be received by staff no later than two weeks prior to the meeting date. All other materials must be received no later than one week before the meeting date.

When projects must be reviewed by the Historical Commission, the Commission of Parks and Recreation or the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Art Commission will not make its decision until the others have done so. The applicant should, however, provide the Art Commission with a submission package at the same time the other applications are made.

Final approval for all proposals is conveyed by staff signature on the completed Building Permit Application for the project.