Rising to the Occasion

Elevation of Kimmel Center escalators looking south; rendering © KieranTimberlake

After many requests from patrons, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts adds escalators to improve accessibility.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia prides itself on extensive accessibility features. Now, the center is taking that one step further and adding escalators to accommodate more patrons.

Senior Vice President of Facilities and Operations Ross Richards says Kimmel’s patrons have been requesting escalators since the day the center opened in 2001. The center boasts accessibility features such as wheelchair- accessible seating, American Sign Language interpretation, personal care attendants, audio descriptions and closed captions. The new escalators will add to the center’s list of accessibility features. Richards said:

“The need was particularly great for our more mature guests who frequent our multilevel performance spaces. Currently, all spaces are accessible via stairs and elevators. While the capacity is enough, the added escalator will provide an additional method for our guests to ascend.”

The new addition to the center will be a two-tiered thyssenkrupp system. Both tiers will serve as up escalators before performances and become down escalators when shows are complete, and patrons are leaving. The project will cost US$3.8 million, and all the money has been raised by individual philanthropic gifts.

One of the challenges of the project was making sure the escalators fit the design of the center. They will have a “sleek modern design” with glass rails and skirt finishes that complement the center’s interior finishes. Another challenge is their placement within the building. Richards explained:

“Inserting the escalators into existing open spaces requires careful, almost surgical, shifts to the existing structure and systems infrastructure. Planning and careful measurement have been critical.”

Richards said the Kimmel Center chose thyssenkrupp as the manufacturer, because its installation plan fit the ongoing operations best. As the center hosts more than 1,400 performances annually, the length of the installation process required careful planning. The majority of the work will be completed overnight to cause minimal disruptions.

Construction began in April and is expected to be completed by late November. Richards believes the escalators will be well-received by patrons. “Many will rejoice and ask why it took so long!”

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