This month, Edwin Forrest Elementary School is celebrating the completion of a successful first academic year in its newly renovated K-5 learning environment, which underwent a $22 million transformation designed by DIGroup Architecture (DIG). The project, which has energized the Mayfair neighborhood, holds particular significance for DIG as it marks the leading urban-school architecture and design firm’s first major renovation project with the School District of Philadelphia.

“DIG has been serving the school market since our inception and our team is keenly aware of how renovated spaces can be – and are – a complete game changer for student success,” said Vince Myers, president of DIG, a certified Minority- and Disadvantaged-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE/DBE) that established an office in the city five years ago. “Throughout our history, we have been extremely active across New Jersey and New York City and are pleased to expand our regional expertise to now include Philadelphia.”  

Working with the School District of Philadelphia, DIG’s multi-disciplinary team of in-house architects, interior designers and graphic designers collaborated with engineering consultants to breathe new life into the nearly 100-year-old school, a fixture in its Lower Northeast section neighborhood. DIG’s design work included major interior renovations, exterior envelope repairs and restoration.  

“Schools are community spaces where teachers and administrators partner with parents to shape the minds, hearts and character of their young people. Students and staff deserve physical spaces that are safe, functional and provide an uplifting environment where learning can take place,” said LoriAnne Jones, DIG senior project manager. “It is an honor to work with end-user groups, and School District of Philadelphia leadership, to conceptualize and deliver projects like Edwin Forrest Elementary School, which meet modern needs while maintaining and celebrating the historical integrity of an older structure.”

Rooted in the philosophy of delivering “Architecture for Change,” DIG’s work in the education space is expansive. Past assignments include the New Jersey Schools Development Authority’s Rose M. Lopez Dual-Language Elementary School in Perth Amboy, N.J.; the Community Charter School of Paterson in Paterson, N.J., and the New York City School Construction Authority’s Public School K 748, The Albee Square Campus, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As part of the Edwin Forrest Elementary renovation, the school was refreshed with new finishes throughout and outfitted with new program spaces. Updates include a commercial kitchen for on-site food preparation; new HVAC systems; updated bathrooms that are ADA-compliant; and new lighting and low voltage systems, compatible with district-wide technology use. New specialty classrooms for science, art and small group instruction (SGI) were also built out, along with an updated computer lab and a related “Maker Space.”

In addition to its Philadelphia-based assignments, DIG has been working with both New Jersey and the New York Public Schools for more than 18 years to create, refurbish and reimagine learning facilities to better serve today’s students, teachers and communities. The firm also specializes in civic, healthcare and senior living spaces.