A Face-Saving Gesture for the Royal Theater

The South Street facade of the planned residential-retail development. | Rendering: JKRP Architects

The South Street facade of the planned residential-retail development. | Renderings: JKRP Architects

We now know what the residential project that will rise behind the front wall of the Royal Theater in the 1600 block of South Street will look like.

That’s because the site’s owner, Sarasota, Fla.-based developer and medical research backer Robert Roskamp is ready to proceed with the project, which hews closely to plans developer Carl Dranoff had been discussing with Universal Companies head Kenny Gamble last summer.

According to a news report on Philly.com today, the project, which will go before Civic Design Review tomorrow (Tuesday, May 2nd), will consist of 57 apartments in a six-story structure to be built behind the South Street theater’s facade plus seven three-story townhouses at the rear of the theater site, fronting on Kater Street. Read more »

One of Us: Kenny Gamble

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Kenny Gamble, although sometimes people call me Mr. Huff.

I was born … at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1943, and grew up in an apartment in South Philadelphia at 15th and Christian. First floor rear. We had a big dog named Curly.

after the jump »

Philly Natives Patti LaBelle, Gamble & Huff to Receive Marian Anderson Award

Patti Labelle, iStockphoto.com | EdStock. Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble, via Charles Sykes | AP

Patti Labelle, iStockphoto.com | EdStock. Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble, via Charles Sykes | AP

Mayor Jim Kenney announced today that Patti LaBelle and Gamble & Huff will receive this year’s Marian Anderson Award. This is the first time since 2008 when Maya Angelou and Norman Lear were honored that multiple recipients have won the award.

The Marian Anderson Award is presented annually to “critically acclaimed artists who have impacted society in a positive way, either through their work or their support for an important cause,” according to the award’s website. The award’s namesake is one of the most celebrated contraltos of the twentieth century. Born in Philadelphia and denied entry into music programs because she was African American, Marian Anderson became a central figure in the early battles for civil rights. She will be memorialized on the back of the new $5 bill.  Read more »

Gamble and Huff to Be Honored By Songwriters Hall of Fame

gamble and huffPhilly-based TSOP pioneers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff will receive the top prize at this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony: the Johnny Mercer Award.

AP reports that the award will be presented on June 12 in New York City. Last year, the prize went to Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Gamble and Huff — inducted into the Songwriters  Hall of Fame in 1995 — are most known for a string of Philly soul hits that spanned the 1970s and early-1980s, like Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and the O’Jays “Love Train.” The duo recently made news for transferring the rights to their Philadelphia International Records Catalogue to Sony Music Entertainment. It’s a big year for these two.

Listen to some of the aforementioned TSOP classics below.

Read more »

Sony Secures Global Rights to Entire Philadelphia International Records Catalogue

gamble and huff

Gamble and Huff.

It’s about to get a whole lot more soulful up in here.

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) has secured global rights to the entire catalogue of Philadelphia International Records (PIR), the recording company started by The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP) pioneers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971.

This means that, staring in April of this year, SME will begin rolling out a series of albums from the PIR catalog, including a 20-CD Philadelphia International Records box set containing greatest hits compilations by everyone from The Jacksons and Teddy Pendergrass to The Three Degrees and Miss Patti Labelle.

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Might Something Else Be Afoot at the Royal?

symphony houseJudging from the presence not only of Kenny Gamble, founder and CEO of Universal Companies, but also of his negotiating team at Tuesday’s formal unveiling of Dranoff Properties’ SLS International Hotel and Residences project, the record exec-turned-community developer and the master developer continue to maintain a strong working relationship. The two have long been partners in real estate deals, including Symphony House (left), Southstar Lofts and 777 South Broad. And now Gamble has agreed to sell two lots he owns at Broad and Spruce streets to Dranoff in order to make his project possible.

When we asked Gamble about the status of the Royal Theater, which remains uncertain amidst both a conservatorship challenge and a still-pending petition to demolish most of the structure, his response suggested that Dranoff may have ideas for the space. Though Dranoff has said he is only acting as an advisor to Gamble’s Universal Companies on the Royal, it seems possible that he may be considering more involvement.

Read more »

BREAKING: Dranoff to Build PA’s Highest Residential Tower on South Broad

Photo: Laura Kicey

Photo: Laura Kicey

In April developer Carl Dranoff told Property’s Shannon Rooney, “The best is yet to come on South Broad Street. Later this year, look for a big announcement… We have several equation-changing projects for the city.” He was undoubtedly referring to the news that broke on Hidden City on Nov. 20th: that the company would build an SLS boutique hotel/luxury condo tower — SLS International — at Broad and Spruce.

sls international

Day rendering by KPF.

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Morning Headlines: Dranoff to Open Hotel/Condo at Broad and Spruce

skyline avenue place

A skyline with Avenue Place imagined by Bradley Maule. Via Hidden City.

Yesterday Hidden City broke the news that developer Carl Dranoff has a new project planned: Avenue Place, a 40-story mixed-use hotel-condo tower on the corner of Broad and Spruce. Hidden City’s Bradley Maule suggests that both the building that once held Utrecht Art Supplies and Philadelphia International Records (301-309 S. Broad) may be demolished as well as the building across Cypress Street (311 S. Broad).

Read more »

2013 Marian Anderson Award Given to Berry Gordy at the Kimmel Center


The 2013 Marian Anderson Award was held last night at the Kimmel Center. Motown founder Berry Gordy was this year’s recipient. Major performers such as Smokey Robinson, Boyz II Men, Kool & The Gang, Chris Tucker, Cody Wise, Brandon Victor Dixon (who portrays Gordy in Motown the Musical on Broadway) Philly producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon A. Huff, as well as musical director Bill Jolly, paid tribute to the iconic philanthropist and music legend.

See HughE’s photos from the Marian Anderson Awards after the jump »

Universal Defends Its Record at Charged Meeting About Royal Theater


After last night’s public meeting at the Bainbridge Club on the redevelopment of the Royal Theater, three things are certain:

1. Barring some miracle, the Royal will not survive whole.

2. Many residents would like owner Universal Companies to at least honor the theater’s history and heritage.

3. Universal will have to do more fence-mending to bring skeptical near neighbors on board with its plans.

The meeting was the first of what will likely be a series of public meetings to inform the community and obtain feedback on Universal’s plans to demolish and redevelop much of the African-American cultural landmark and build on an adjacent lot as a mixed-use project that will include street-level retail on South Street, apartments above, and new townhouses on Kater Street.

Read more »

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