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June 06, 2018

Sprawling, eco-friendly dining hall being built at Philadelphia Zoo

Restaurants Philadelphia Zoo
zoo roof top terrace Daroff Design Inc./Philadelphia Zoo

A rendering of the Earth & Elm Restaurant roof.

The Philadelphia Zoo is home not only to a few rebellious peacocks, but as of next year, also will include a sprawling new dining facility situated beside the zoo's 42-foot tall treehouse.

Development for Earth & Elm Restaurant broke ground this week, the dining hall designed to bring more food options to zoo visitors in a 20,000-square foot, two-story, LEED-certified building. The concept will seat about 650 people and include a roof deck, green roof infrastructure, and a glass-enclosed pavilion that will give diners a new view of tree canopies and Bird Lake.

As for food, the space will include several different dining concepts. Lancer Hospitality and STARR Catering Group are spearheading the food options, reflecting a recent partnership with the hospitality groups to influence all visitor dining services at the zoo.

Though no specific food offerings have been revealed yet, the real emphasis so far is on the environmentally-focused building design. Architecture firm Daroff Design Inc. is playing up Earth & Elm's location in a way that will connect guests with the space's natural surroundings, mingling the indoors with outdoors.

Daroff Design Inc./Philadelphia Zoo

Exterior view rendering at Earth & Elm.

Daroff Design Inc./Philadelphia Zoo

Vestibule rendering of Earth & Elm.

Daroff Design Inc./Philadelphia Zoo

A rendering of the servery at Earth & Elm.

Daroff Design Inc./Philadelphia Zoo

Rendering of night dining at Earth & Elm.

"In partnership with the very talented team at Daroff Design, we have developed a concept that incorporates indoor and outdoor elements speaking to the idea of nature and our role on the planet," said Amy Shearer, chief marketing officer at the zoo, in a statement.

In addition to concrete flooring and warm wood design accents, an organic patterned facade will light up at night and guide visitors from the main path to the Philadelphia Zoo's rain gardens.

Last September, when the zoo first revealed plans for Earth & Elm, the projected construction cost was $11.5 million. 

Earth & Elm is expected to open spring 2019.