Zoning, planning & development

Apply for construction approval from the Art Commission

If you want to build or alter a structure paid for by the City, on City property, or in certain zoning overlay districts, you must submit a proposal to the Art Commission for approval in order to obtain a building permit. The Art Commission will review the design and location of your proposal.

Art Commission approval is a prerequisite for some building permits. You should begin by contacting the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). They will inform you of all prerequisite approvals needed for your application. This could include approvals from the:

  • Art Commission.
  • Historical Commission.
  • City Planning Commission.
  • Other agencies.

If you require other approvals, get them before seeking approval from the Art Commission.

Overview

1
Check with L&I

Check with L&I to find out about any prerequisites.

2
Submission

Send your submission materials to the Art Commission.

3
Review & approval

Staff will review your proposal. They will determine if it can be approved immediately or must be referred to the Art Commission for administrative approval or presentation.

Submission materials

All proposals must include a cover letter, photographs, renderings, and supporting materials. Other information may be requested.

Cover letter

Your cover letter should provide a complete narrative description of the project. That includes:

  • The existing conditions of the site.
  • The purpose of your proposed work.
  • The name, mailing address, and email address of the person who should receive the commission’s decision.
  • The name, phone number, and email address of your contact person. This person should be able to answer questions about the application.

If this is a follow-up to a previous submission, your cover letter should:

  • Describe how your revisions differ from your original proposal.
  • Address any concerns expressed by the Art and Architecture Committee or Art Commission.

Photographs

You must include current 3 in. x 5 in. color photographs of the site and its surroundings.

Only use older photographs to show former conditions. Do not use online street views.

Renderings

You must include scale drawings of the proposed design. All dimensions, materials, and colors must be labeled. Submissions typically include drawings of:

  • The site and plan. This drawing shows the location of the site with its adjacent streets and land uses labeled. It will also show the location’s features and improvements. You may show the landscaping on this drawing or on a separate landscape plan.
  • A plan view of the proposal.
  • The elevations of the proposed structure. This should show the main facade’s materials and colors, unless you provide a separate rendering.
  • Rendered views, if it’s a large project in a public location.

Only submit the drawings for the part of the project that the commission must approve. Do not submit the entire project set unless asked to do so.

Supporting materials

You must include:

  • The project budget. This budget should show sources of funding, particularly the use of City of Philadelphia capital funds.
  • A statement from the Public Art Office about the Percent for Art Program, if your project uses City funds. This program requires developers to set aside one percent of a municipal project’s costs for public art.
  • The building permit application for staff to sign once approval is granted.

Where and when

Submit a package of the submission materials by email to artcommission@phila.gov, or to:

Philadelphia Art Commission
1515 Arch St., 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Staff review process

Art Commission staff will review the submission and determine what type of review is necessary:

  • If a proposal has no visual impact, staff may sign off on it immediately. Staff must be able to verify that work is not visible by examining the submission materials.
  • If a proposal is primarily for changes and repairs with minimal visual impact, staff may give administrative approval. Staff will put it on the next meeting agenda to be endorsed by the commission without presentation. Final sign off on the building permit application will not occur until after the meeting.
  • You must present projects with a significant visual impact to the commission’s Art and Architecture Committee. This includes all new construction and most additions and exterior alterations.

For projects with a visual impact

Most proposals need two reviews: concept and final approvals. Some proposals may need more than two presentations. You should seek concept approval early in the design process.

The Art and Architecture Committee meets on the first Wednesday of each month. They will make recommendations for your proposal. The Art Commission meets immediately after and will act on these recommendations.

To place an item on the agenda, staff must receive the cover letter at least two weeks before a meeting. Staff must receive three hard copies and a PDF of the submission package at least one week before a meeting.

Collate copies into three packages and, if necessary, fold them to 8.5 in. x 11 in. You should bring the presentation on a USB drive, along with material samples, models, and other important information to the meeting.

When your proposal gets final approval, staff will sign the building permit application.


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