The cavernous building at 1639 Hancock Street has led a long, rich Philadelphia life. Since the late 1880s, its 32,000 square feet have hosted a tobacco factory, a trunk factory and a paper box factory. In more recent years, it has witnessed countless real estate agents try to bestow cutesy names upon its neighborhood -- they seem to have settled on "Old Kensington" -- and has graciously allowed young art students to photograph its sleepy skeleton. All the while, it has never once threatened to move to New York or, worse, the suburbs.
It is, as Leo Voloshin discovered, a building that has earned its right to hang out. Along with his wife, Amy, he has transformed the space into Paper Box Studios, a loft-style development of offices and workspaces.
"It's such a shame that there isn't more momentum to develop these kinds of buildings," says Voloshin, who is also behind textile design studio Printfresh. "We're a fashion company, so we like old things. Our goal was to create a place for artists and creative professionals to both run their businesses and create art."
Paper Box's 25 studios range from modest 200-square-foot offices to sprawling 2,300-square-foot workspaces, and they feature artsy touches such as exposed brick and restored beams as well as practical amenities including kitchenettes and bike storage. And while all are welcome, Voloshin hopes Paper Box Studios can particularily serve its arts-minded tenants.
"We're not exclusive, but we're marketing it as a creative space," he says. "It's a great mix, because people can find folks to collaborate and do business with -- to come together and exchange ideas."
Launching in June, Paper Box's "co-working" space will offer smaller private offices and open working areas for freelancers tired of sitting in coffee shops and small companies just getting off the ground.
In addition to Printfresh, many artists and companies already call Paper Box Studios home, including photographers Emily Wren and Cassidy Rehwaldt, artisan candle makers Gritty City Philadelphia, fashion designer Chi Kim and sound engineer/DJ Miguel Leon.