Adaptive Reuse of the Iconic Phoenixville Riverworks

Originally built around its steel mill, the town of Phoenixville has flourished through the years, thanks to its rich history and access to the French Creek. Today, the town continues to thrive, featuring a bustling downtown with restaurants, bars and boutique shops.

And though the mill is long-abandoned, developer Equus Capital Partners, along with Toll Brothers Apartment Living, identified an opportunity for adaptive reuse of the iconic, 30-acre site, envisioning Phoenixville Riverworks – a luxury 350-unit multifamily community that preserved historical elements, while connecting residents to downtown entertainment.

Revitalizing the site required the project team to work through unique challenges, including avoiding impact to the French Creek floodway, restoration of a footbridge, incorporating historic features, and the discovery of an existing underground canal system used to regulate water flow during the mill’s operation.

Avoiding Impact to the Floodway

Given its proximity to the French Creek, a designated floodway cuts through the site – an area that must be reserved for floodwaters and kept at its designated elevation. Bohler identified creative design solutions that minimized environmental impact to this area, while adding value to the community.

  • Creative grading plans ensured no soil was added to the site, preserving the floodway elevation.
  • Buildings were elevated by fill so that they could be raised out of the floodplain.
  • Parking creatively located on the ground-floor of several buildings minimized impervious surface, contributing to the limited environmental impact.
  • Stormwater management basins that are designed to fit naturally into the landscape temporarily hold, filter, and release rainwater runoff into the ground, preventing direct discharge into French Creek.

Preserving Historic Features to Honor the Mill

A historic footbridge on the site previously connected the foundry to the mill’s Wage House (now Buho’s Restaurant, located across the creek) and was used by workers starting or finishing their shift. Identifying an opportunity to incorporate the feature into the community, the team used the rehabilitated bridge to provide pedestrian access to restaurants and boutiques in town.

During construction, the contractor discovered an underground water canal system originally used by the mill, but still diverting water through the site. Acting quickly, Bohler reviewed the French Creek flood study and devised a plan to reroute the system more conveniently, while avoiding adverse effects to the creek. Bohler’s plan was reviewed and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) without delaying construction.

Adaptive Reuse of the Iconic Phoenixville Riverworks

Incorporating Historical Design Elements

The project team worked diligently to maintain historic character throughout the site. Bohler collaborated with Toll Brothers and project architect BartonPartners to identify elements to incorporate into the design.

  • Sandstone cliffs and railroad piers enhance the amenity area
  • Trail system incorporates old railroad tunnel
  • Clubhouse exterior resembles former mill building
  • Interior design elements feature exposed steel framework and wood plank details

Creating a Community-Centered Experience

Bohler’s landscape architecture team designed the central green, clubhouse courtyard, plaza, pool, and dog park, each providing opportunities for residents to connect with each other and the local community. The courtyard and plaza, which wrap around the clubhouse, serve as a gathering space. The pool features plenty of seating, cabanas, and a sun shelf, and the dog park serves as a social gathering space for dogs of all sizes and their owners.

Further connecting the complex with the local community, Bohler extended an existing public trail system through the Riverworks site. Future plans will further connect the site to the Schuylkill River Trail, providing access all the way to Philadelphia, and requiring an elevated bridge through a tunnel and over the canal.

Collaborating to Accomplish the Mission

The award-winning Riverworks is a successful integration of modern luxury with rich history, and Bohler’s creative design solutions reduced its environmental impact. Taking a collaborative approach, Bohler identified and garnered consensus on historic elements to preserve and incorporate into the final design. The team’s ability to adapt and react quickly during construction enabled successful preservation and rerouting of the canal, and kept the project moving forward.

As an added benefit to the surrounding community, the site’s trail network connects to the public Schuylkill River Trail, providing an opportunity for all Phoenixville residents to enjoy the mill’s preserved history.

30 Acres
350 Units
6 Multistory Buildings

Ready to Move Forward?

Our approach makes a meaningful difference for our most ambitious clients. Contact us to learn more.

Let's Get Started