Photo: Former Grace Lutheran Church to be adatively reused as land design firm headquarters

Former Grace Lutheran Church to be adatively reused as land design firm headquarters

Philadelphia design firm to make modern home in 100-year-old Roxborough church.

David Plante and Cesira Ruggiero, the principals of Ruggiero Plante Land Design, have worked for decades to improve properties around the region. Today, they are putting their expertise in engineering and design into the rehabilitation of a nearly 100-year-old church in Roxborough that will serve as their new headquarters.

Ruggiero is a landscape architect with more than 25 years of experience in site planning, engineering, and design. She’s an expert at stormwater management and has worked in everything from small residential projects to large scale commercial developments. Plante is a civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience who specializes in urban redevelopment, sustainable stormwater management design. He has been responsible for the design, approval, and maintenance of numerous stormwater management systems in the City of Philadelphia from green roofs to rain gardens to subsurface infiltration beds. He has also overseen installation of many of these stormwater systems.

The firm started in 1978, first as Kinzler & Ritter, then Plante became a partner in 2000 and the firm was restructured as Ritter & Plante Associates. Ruggiero became a partner in 2014 and again the firm was restructured as Ruggiero Plante Land Design, a WBE (Women's Business Enterprise).

The 28-person team has been operating out of an office space in Manayunk for the last 10 years and needed more space. They had been looking for a place in Northwest Philadelphia and when the church became available, they jumped at the chance.

“Roxborough made sense, I live in Germantown, Cesira lives in East Falls. This is close to both of us and more accessible for a lot of our clients who’d prefer to come here than into Center City.”

“Roxborough made sense,” Plante said. “I live in Germantown, Cesira lives in East Falls. This is close to both of us and more accessible for a lot of our clients who’d prefer to come here than into Center City.”

And more than the location, the space is remarkable. “It’s a great space,” Ruggiero said looking over the church’s interior, a small wooden place of worship that looks only a few dozen pews short of being ready for service. It had been used for a time as a medical imaging facility, but much of the original sanctuary remained untouched. A small organ still has a place next to the altar and a majestic stained-glass window occupies the west wall. The interior walls and the expansive ceiling are covered in dark wood paneling. It’s the perfect place, the partners say, for a design studio.

In terms of renovations, Plante and Ruggiero said they were going to keep much of the church’s interior and exterior intact. They plan to improve the landscape design around the property and will add a sunken courtyard that will not be readily visible from the road. All told, the investment they have put in to purchase the property and to renovate it will be about $1.5 million.

The prospect of taking a church built in 1909 that had stood vacant for nearly 10 years, preserving it and making it a thriving place of business is something that has delighted the Roxborough Development Corporation.

“Ruggiero Plante Land Design's office expansion to the Grace Lutheran Church Building brings one of the city's most reputable land development firms to the Ridge Avenue Commercial Corridor in Roxborough,”

“Ruggiero Plante Land Design's office expansion to the Grace Lutheran Church Building brings one of the city's most reputable land development firms to the Ridge Avenue Commercial Corridor in Roxborough,” said the organization’s director James Calamia. “Their commitment to preserving this architectural and historical treasure should serve as a model for adaptive reuse. We welcome the firm and there 28 employees to the Roxborough neighborhood.  

But converting the church is more than just good stewardship for Ruggiero and Plante. It’s an opportunity.

“We’re really excited by the possibilities of the space,” Ruggiero said. “For us, everything comes together in this property; a beautiful building in the Roxborough commercial corridor with ample space for our staff and a sizeable lot to accommodate a landscaped courtyard and a demonstration rain garden. We are thrilled to join the Roxborough business community and have this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to historic preservation.”

Pete Mazzaccaro is a RoxboroughPA.com Newsroom contributor.

Photo: Ruggiero Plante Land Design Cesira & David

Cesira Ruggiero pictured left and David Platne pictured right outside their planned headquarters at 5900 Ridge Avenue

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