by Walter Fox
James Nelson Kise II, 75, formerly of Chestnut Hill, an architect and city planner who played a major role in many redevelopment projects in the Philadelphia area, died Dec. 26 of a hear ailment at his home in Freeport, Maine.
Although Mr. Kise had retired from Kise, Straw and Kolodner, a Philadelphia-based firm that he cofounded in 1984, he continued to serve as a consultant on many architectural and urban planning projects. He also maintained a home in Center City Philadelphia.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a member of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zonning Committee and had served for a time as its chairman.
Mr. Kise’s firm, which specializes in architecture, planning, urban design and historic preservation, was involved in the 1965 Market West Redevelopment Area Plan, the Avenue of the Arts, the relocation of the Liberty Bell and other urban design contributions to the current transformation of Independence Hall.
The firm’s restoration of the former Ridgway Library to house the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts won seven design awards, including the National Honor Award of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Mr. Kise played a leading role in shaping five new towns: Ciudad Guayana, Venezuala; Raddisson, N.Y.; Peachtree City, Ga.; Sadat City, Egypt, and Kaohsiung New Town, Taiwan. He also worked in Pennsylvania on the central areas of Allentown and Harrisburg, and in Memphis, Tenn.
An advocate for modern and contemporary architecture and design, as well as for the preservation of historic buildings. Mr. Kise in the early 1980’s undertook with his wife the conversion of Druim Moir, the 1886 Chestnut Hill estate of Henry Howard Houston (her great-grandfather) into a residential community.
Shortly thereafter he supervised an addition to the historic Philadelphia Cricket Club. More recently, he had been acting on behalf of the Houston Family in the discussions surrounding the development of the SugarLoaf Campus of Chestnut Hill College.
He had been a member of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1975, and in 2009, as chair of the Building Committee, he oversaw the master plan under development by architect Frank Gehry, including the creation of new public spaces for the museum. He was a past co-chair of the Young Friends of the Museum, and had served on many of the museum’s committees.
Gail Harrity, president and CEO of the museum, described Mr. Kise as an “enthusiastic and energetic advocate who had both the ability to create a vision for the future and to roll up his sleeves with everyone necessary to make it happen.”
Mr. Kise was a director of the Urban Design Center of Urban America in Washington, D.C., from 1967 to 1970 and helped to found the National Urban Coalition after the urban riots of 1968. Returning to Philadelphia, he worked with Edmund Bacon of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
He was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2010, in the category of “Service to Society,” recognizing his career as an advocate of architecture, design, and the visual and performing arts, and his leadership at local, state, and national levels.
Affiliated with the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial since 1970, including 12 years as board president, he was honored in 2006 with Fleisher’s Founder’s Award as one of three distinguished architects who helped to make Fleisher a community treasure.
He was a founder of the Washington, D.C, Community School of Music and served on the board of Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School. Proud of his heritage as a descendant of David Rittenhouse, he was active on the board of Historic Rittenhouse Town.
A native of Trenton, N.J., Mr. Kise attended Lafayette College for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1959 and, later, master’s degrees in urban design and fine arts. From 1996 until recently he was a lecturer in urban design at the university.
He was a board member of the university’s School of Design Alumni Association since 1995 and a member of the school’s board of overseers since 2001.
He is survived by his wife, Sarah “Sallie” Smith; sons Jefferson, of Carmel, Calif., Curtis, of Philadelphia, and Triplett, of Freeport, Maine; a daughter, Susanna, of Houston, Tex.; a brother, Lee, in Germany, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 Saint Martins Lane, in Chestnut Hill. Burial will be private.
Memorial donations may be made to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Development Dept., Box 7646, Philadelphia 19101.