Eastern Factory: Will the Historic Elements Be Destroyed By Blue Horizon Developers?

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

As far back as 2005, the empty Eastern Factory at 30th and Cecil B. Moore was being touted as the soon-to-be Eastern Lofts, a development planned by Haile Johnston. From the Inquirer in June 2005:

She and her husband, Haile Johnston, bought a former warehouse with a collapsed roof in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown section with plans to turn it into a hub of workshops and a food distribution center.

Some newspapers talked about it as if it already existed. From Philadelphia Weekly in 2006:

The proposed Common Market site is the ground floor of a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Brewerytown called Eastern Lofts. Ideally, the market would attract other businesses to the Lofts. Caterers, food co-ops, buying clubs and a canning operation could all benefit from the foods moving in. The distribution center also plans to fill orders from local restaurants, schools and grocery stores.

At the time, there was a banner on the building — a banner that’s still there — that said the lofts were coming in 2006.


In 2007, a user on YoungPhillyPolitics wrote:

Though not completed, [Haile Johnston's] project Eastern Lofts is an impressive undertaking and that is one of the most dynamic development projects in Philadelphia. He is taking a vacant 60,000 sqt. ft. warehouse bought though a private market transaction (not for a dollar from the city as Adam has stated earlier) and redeveloping it as a mixed use building. It will have spaces for artist lofts, small business lofts, a food distribution center, a local food cooperative market and much more.

In 2009, the Temple University journalism blog Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Behind the Bylines read:

The re-development of Eastern lofts may be coming into fruition with enough money and devotion. Haile Johnston, the State Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership program is planning on developing the Eastern Lofts with the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation. He plans on using this vacant 60,000 square ft. warehouse and turn it into a multi-million dollar project. The plan: Turn the empty property into artist lofts, condos, a food distribution center, and a local food market.

It's the development that cried wolf.

Now, the newsletter of the Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia deservedly praises the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation and Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center for their commitment to historic preservation.

However:

The SMCDC and SMNAC are community partners with several developers exploring development of abandoned industrial complexes that contain historic elements, like the 32,200-square foot Eastern factory at 30th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Who are the developers involved?

According to its website, Mosaic Development Partners is the developer, with plans for Easter Village, with a groundbreaking target date for 4th quarter 2013. The specs:

60,000 sf
Mixed use office and apartment complex
14,000 sf of leasable office space
36 apartments
30 indoor parking spaces

Problem is, Mosaic is not exactly known for historic preservation and respect. As Inga Saffron wrote of the company in June of this year:

Mosaic's founders have never shown much patience for historic buildings. The company just demolished the castlelike Edison High School on Lehigh Avenue for a suburban shopping center. A decade ago, Lewis was part of the team that tried unsuccessfully to raze Chestnut Street's historic Boyd Theater.

Now the company is lobbying to "gut the innards" of the Blue Horizon. And while the Preservation Alliance may have faith in the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation and Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center to preserve the factory's "historical elements," in the end it may not be up to them.

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