Modesto Bigas-Valedon was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. After spending eight years in Boston learning the ropes of the profession and getting a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design, an old friend convinced him to make the trip down the Massachusetts Turnpike to I-95 to Philly. He arrived via the wrong bridge with an old, beat-down U-Haul.
During the day, and sometimes late at night, Modesto is a Senior Associate at WRT. “I am truly fortunate to be in a place where there is constant flow of ideas – whether engaged in resolving a particular detail, to discussing a design concept for a new project, or putting together an amazing proposal… my day is never the same and the people that I get to work with constantly surprise me.” Outside of work, he co-chairs the AIA Urban Design Committee and volunteering as an ACE Mentor. He says family time—whether that means playing four square, watching a movie, cooking, or doing occasional handyman/lumberjack duty—keeps him grounded.
“How designers think, combined with an open disposition to listen and engage people on their terms, makes us uniquely qualified to provide meaningful responses to the range of challenges communities face.”
The diversity of the people and communities is what I like most about Philadelphia. Recently, there has been a fresh acknowledgement of the need to improve the quality of life throughout the City, and a growing recognition of the power of neighborhood groups to make that happen.
Rose Gray has been working with APM since 1990 to revitalize Eastern North Philadelphia. She serves a diverse community, directing all aspects of community-based planning and development. She has leveraged over $140 million in neighborhood development during her tenure—most recently, Paseo Verde, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development with 120 affordable apartments and ground floor retail and office space. Previously, Rose was a construction manager for major development projects and board administrator of the City of Philadelphia Zoning Hoard of Adjustment, Board of Building Standards, and Licenses and Inspections Review Board.
Currently, Rose chairs the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. You will also frequently find her lecturing or mentoring at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. As a break from community development, she pursues her passion for theater and art exhibitions, and helps her daughter-in-law with her crafting business. Rose says, “The work of the Collaborative has benefitted me, my organization, and APM’s community by providing a nurturing and safe place to promote ideas and explore possibilities.”
“The Collaborative provides a nurturing and safe place to promote ideas and explore possibilities.”
Robert Leonard grew up in Bucks County and has lived in and around Philadelphia almost all of his life. An intellectual property lawyer with Volpe and Koenig, P.C., Rob helps inventors and businesses protect their ideas and brands. Patents and trademarks are important tools to protect intellectual property; and Rob helps his clients obtain and enforce their rights in their thought product. Away from the office, Rob is the father of two young girls. He coaches his daughter’s soccer team, plays soccer himself, enjoys CrossFit, and has been known to run long distances.
Rob believes that design can promote community engagement and is vital to strong communities. he says, “Inviting spaces make such a difference in people’s attitudes about their communities.” He’s looking forward to bringing a new perspective to the board, and rolling up his sleeves to help keep our neighborhoods vibrant and strong.
“Inviting spaces make such a difference in people’s attitudes about their communities.”
Charles Moleski is a native Philadelphian. In the past decade, he says, Philadelphia has made such tremendous progress and hopes that Philadelphia can finally shake the negative self-image that’s held it back in the past. “I feel that the City’s self-image, Joel Embiid, and Carson Wentz are the things to watch in the next few years.”
Charlie is the Principal in charge of project management for Becker & Frondorf, a company that helps manage design and construction projects for companies and organizations that do not that expertise on staff. He has overseen many of the firm’s most significant institutional projects including the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Agnes Irwin School, and the Shipley School. Charlie previously worked as a project manager for a nonprofit that revitalized public spaces in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. Currently, he is the Chair of a committee overseeing the restoration of the Historic Christ Church steeple. The father of two young boys, he says, “It’s wonderful to see the world through the eyes of eight- and ten-year-olds.”
“The Collaborative bridges the gap between Philadelphia’s design and construction professional communities and the City’s neighborhood groups.”
Maria Sourbeer grew up in Marlton, NJ, but both of her parents are from South Philly. She relocated to Philadelphia from Brooklyn in 2008 to purchase her great grandfather's home. She says, “I love that my heritage and history are here in Philadelphia and I'm excited by its recent growth.”
Maria is Vice President of Development for Shift Capital, a real estate development group that focuses on both financial returns for investors and social impacts for communities. Currently Shift Capital is working in Kensington, north of Lehigh Avenue. “The idea of creating jobs and bringing long-vacant buildings back to life really lights me up!” Maria is a founding board member and part of the facilities committee of the South Philly Food Co-op. She also serves on the Impact Loan Fund board for Impact Services in Kensington. She loves her bike and anything that marks the change of seasons. “Ask me to ski in winter, plant flowers in spring, ride waves in summer and celebrate Oktoberfest in fall and you've won my heart!”
“Light and space have an impact that people don't always appreciate. A well designed space can make people happier and healthier without ever getting the credit.”
Julie Wiley was born and raised in Wisconsin and moved to Philadelphia to study engineering at Drexel University. She accepted a job at CVM after graduating. She met her husband Jason in 2008 playing softball in the Philadelphia Architect’s Softball League and they now live in Bella Vista. There are so many things I love about Philadelphia… you can pretty much walk anywhere… I am especially excited by the recent revitalization of several of the city’s parks and plazas.”
Julie is a Project Manager at CVM, where she manages the firm’s larger structural engineering and multi-disciplinary projects. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family. “My son is 17 months old, so we spend A LOT of time at local parks. Our neighborhood is full of them. Brunch is our favorite meal out these days and with a toddler we are often up early enough to beat the crowds. We also try to be active participants in our neighborhood, frequenting local businesses and taking part in frequent neighborhood clean-ups.”
“Design can help instill a sense of community pride and ownership.”
Our six new board members join the Collaborative’s 2017 Board of Directors, which also includes Jody Arena, Allied Construction Services; Julie Bush, ASLA, Ground Reconsidered Landscape Architecture; Cheryl Conley, TD Bank; Tavis Dockwiller, ASLA, Viridian Landscape Studio; Daryn Edwards, AIA, CICADA Architecture/Planning, Inc.; Noel Eisenstat, Noel Eisenstat LLC; Jeff Goldstein, AIA, DIGSAU Architecture/Urbanism; Kevin Gray, New Kensington CDC; Carol Horne Penn, Clemens Construction; Lee Huang, Econsult Solutions, Inc.; Rebecca Johnson, AIA Philadelphia;, Megan McGinley, AIA, Kitchen & Associates; Darrick Mix, Duane Morris LLP; Paul Sehnert, University of Pennsylvania; and Richard Winston, AIA, BWA architecture + planning.
Richard Winston, AIA and Daryn Edwards, AIA will serve as Co-Chairs of the Collaborative's 2017 Board of Directors.