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PHILADELPHIA-Acoustics aren’t the most vital part of most real estate developments. At least they aren’t usually as vital as they are for Razak/Athenian, the firm building the $65-million Lenfest Hall, a 106,000-square-foot wing of the Curtis Institute of Music here on the 1600 block of Locust Street.

“I can’t overstate the challenges that a site like this presents,” says Alan Razak, principal of the Razak Co., which is in a co-venture with Athenian Properties LLC to form Razak/Athenian for special projects. The nine-story Lenfest Hall, formerly the Locust Club, is between two historic buildings and Razak/Athenian has elected to keep the original building’s façade, which has meant constructing a temporary three-story wall to hold the structure up.

And none of that has anything to do with the acoustics. The Curtis Institute, which has a 120-student orchestra, has a very specific acoustical design that called for two layers of windows, on outdoor and one indoor, and more concrete than a normal development to prevent the building from shaking due to nearby train activity.

Another challenge, Razak says, was the mixture of rehearsal space and residential areas in the building for students. “The specifics of the needs of the conservatory take it out of the realm for standard educational institution development,” he says of the project, which broke ground last week.

And if all of that isn’t enough, Razak/Athenian is shooting for LEED certification when it is completed in the fall of 2011. Luckily, the firm has experience developing complex projects that are outside the norm for commercial real estate. It is also currently working on a data center in Mechanicsburg and has done other educational facilities in the past.

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