Visit Philadelphia: Independence Visitor Center Expansion

Rendering of Independence Visitor Center

The Independence Visitor Center, located on the corner of 6th and Market Street, is the primary destination for tourists visiting historic Philadelphia.  Local architecture firm SaylorGregg teamed with Blue Cadet and The Lighting Practice to design the Visitor Center’s upcoming renovation and expansion. 

TLP provided lighting design services for the great hall, café, and theater modifications, as well as the new east terrace located on the mezzanine level. To support the Independence Visitor Center’s LEED Silver Certification goals, our team selected light fixtures with daylight responsive lighting control capability for the great hall and café. TLP coordinated the fixture selection with the design team to ensure compatibility with the daylight harvesting control system. The updated theater will feature dimmable LED downlights and back-lit glowing benches to enhance the “cinema” atmosphere and provide visual interest. When designing the east terrace lighting, TLP took cues from the surrounding area. The new lighting will relate to lighting at the ground level terrace and adjacent Liberty Bell Center. By relating to existing design cues TLP will continue the cohesive design aesthetic along Independence Mall.

The first phase of this two-year construction project is set to begin later this fall. Visitors to the Independence Visitor Center should not experience much disruption. The majority of renovations will be implemented during off-seasons for tourism.

Independence Visitor Center redo: Larger terrace, gift shop

May 24, 2016 | Jacob Adelman, Staff Writer

The Independence Visitor Center plans a $15 million overhaul that will extend the outdoor terrace and enlarge the gift shop as it aims to generate more cash for operations from the city’s growing tourist throng.

The renovation will be the biggest investment at Independence Mall since the early 2000’s, when the center and other buildings were constructed as part of a then-new master plan for the National Park Service site.

It comes as the building’s operator, the nonprofit Independence Visitor Center Corp., strives to reduce its dependence on the Park Service in an age of recurring federal budget tiffs. The Park Service contributes about $800,000 to the center’s $4.2 million annual operating budget.

“My position here in leading this organization is to get us to a point where we’re self-sufficient,” corporation president and chief executive James Cuorato said Monday. “It removes any possibility that the appropriation might be negatively impacted in the future.”

University of Pennsylvania political science professor Marc Meredith said it made sense that the center would want to become less reliant on federal funds after the government shutdown of 2013 and subsequent battles.

They “are trying to protect themselves so they have less dependence on federal revenue, on the chance that the federal government shuts down again in some looming budget battle,” he said. “Relying on the appropriations process generates too much uncertainty to make plans going forward.”

The center extends about two-thirds of a block north of Market Street along the western edge of Independence Mall, and has information counters, tour concessionaires, and theaters playing historical documentaries. It was completed in 2001 in a spate of building that also included the National Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell Center.

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Rendering of Independence Visitor Center new second-floor terrace by SaylorGregg A Studio of Jacobs Wyper Architects