YIKES, founded in 1996 by Tracy and Mia Levesque, is a certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Economic Opportunity. The Levesques, committed to sustainable business practices, operate YIKES out of the newly renovated space, which also has four apartments. Tracy Levesque said that renovating the building, as opposed to constructing a new one, is a more complicated process but greener in the long run.
“We bought the building in July of 2010. It was done and we moved in Sept. 1 of 2011. Even before we bought the buildings there was planning involved,” Tracy said. “The whole thing took over two years. The thing that is very unique about our project is that it’s a gut renovation. We are the first mixed-use gut renovation LEED platinum project in Pennsylvania. A lot of LEED platinum projects are new construction because it is a really hard to do a LEED platinum renovation project. It’s easier to start from scratch. Our philosophy is that sustainability and reuse starts with reusing the building, not just ripping down a building that has historical and architectural significance, and then throwing up something new. I love Philadelphia.
I love our architecture. For me, it’s a dream come true to take a building that was vacant, uninhabitable, dangerous, water-damaged and a nuisance property when it was occupied and doing a complete green rehab of it and bringing it back to life.”
Tracy added that they also wanted to keep the living spaces reasonably affordable.
“Our motivation wasn’t making money,” she said. “Our motivation was to do this mindful green rehab. The apartments are beautiful. People get to enjoy really nice finishes but they are not enjoying stainless-steel fridges or stoves or things like that.”
This renovation project adhered to the building philosophy known as “slow build,” meaning materials, when possible, were salvaged from dismantled sites and local craftspeople were brought in to solve design issues. Labor and time was spent re-visioning different uses for reclaimed and recycled material. Sustainable finishes were used whenever possible with an emphasis on performance and longevity. Tracy advises anyone wanting to take on a green renovation project to seek out the right professionals for the job.
“Assemble a really good team of people who know what they are doing and have done it before,” she said. “That was crucial for us for the success of this project. We consulted with the guys from Onion Flats, who have done several green projects in this area, and they really helped a lot. If we just wanted to do a green renovation and chose any old contractor that didn’t really know or care about green building, it would have been a nightmare.”
A plaque-mounting ceremony will be held 5:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the buildings. For more information and a detailed blog about the renovation process, visit yikesinc.com/blog/.