le bok fin

Bok building’s 1st floor fills up through word of mouth: ‘They came to us’

As businesses prepare to open downstairs, the developer tells Billy Penn she hopes that pop-up rooftop cafe will become a restaurant, and subsidize prices for tenants below.

This summer, the action at the old Bok Technical School was on the roof. It turned into Le Bok Fin, a beer garden that was one of the most popular — and polarizing — hotspots in Philadelphia.  

But direct your gaze these days downstairs, to the building’s first floor, where Bok has filled up. Development company Scout Ltd. has leased all the available room there as a workspace for about 15 companies, from artists to small businesses to nonprofits to a hatmaker.

The rooftop will eventually continue to be an entertainment spot, though probably not the same as Le Bok Fin. Lindsey Scannapieco, managing director for Scout, said she is seeking to turn the eighth floor into a cafe with a license to serve alcohol. She said she couldn’t add anything more specific at this point but hopes the revenue from the rooftop business would keep rates more affordable for tenants downstairs.

Some of the current tenants include the clothing company Lobo Mau and the conductor company Ephemeron Labs. Project Play, a daycare, will also have a space.  

For now, Scout only has permits to use the first floor but plans to expand and fill the rest of the floors. The first floor also contains an auditorium and gym, and Scout hopes to use them for sporting leagues and community and private events.  

Part of the workspace inside Bok.

Part of the workspace inside Bok.

Scout Ltd.

Scannapieco said Scout didn’t have to advertise or even approach any of the companies and individuals who signed on to work there.

“They came to us,” she said. “They had heard about it through word of mouth.”

Scannapieco and Scout certainly haven’t suffered from a lack of publicity. Le Bok Fin opened in the summer, just a few weeks after Scout purchased the property. In early August, a teacher’s blog post criticizing the beer garden as “the worst of upper and middle classes of Philadelphia” went viral, and other think-pieces commenced. But it turned out neighbors and alumni mostly supported Le Bok Fin, quieting some of the negativity.

Scannapieco said 75 percent of the tenants using the workspace are South Philly residents and that nearly half live in the same zip code as the Bok building.

“I think that was really about the wider concern of what happens to these large-scale building and assets and the education crisis here in Philly,  which I think are valid issues and things we need to talk about,” she said. “If we had to be a bit of scapegoat that’s OK. But I think (Bok) is really for the community and supporting these local businesses.”

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