The new Comcast tower wasn’t the only project given the go-ahead by the Civic Design Review committee. It also approved revised plans from developer Brickstone Realty for the “Lit Brothers Tower,” a 30-story residential “growth” (as Curbed Philly put it) on top of the historic department store building.
Philadelphia’s stagnating retail corridor on the east side of Market Street might finally get a major wake-up call, and we’re not talking about the Gallery. Instead, the owners of the drab strip of stores on the block between 11th and 12th have secured new backing from IBEW and National Real Estate Advisors that makes their plans for the block seem like they might finally come to fruition. The stores currently on the 1100 block have been cleared out for demolition in July, to make way for a development named East Market.
Restaurants, entertainment, fashion stores, and even grocers will be included in the new project, but here’s a more elaborate description by the Inquirer’s Joe DiStefano:
Market8 has been endorsed yet again, this time by state and local legislators: Rep. John Taylor, Rep. Michael O’Brien, and Councilman Mark Squilla. They join a line of supporters that includes the Washington West Civic Association and the Philadelphia NAACP.
The casino bidder’s presentation at last month’s hearings before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board made a stronger impression than those of the other contenders.
The big news that was embargoed until this morning yet released yesterday anyway is the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s 11th Annual Endangered Properties List. It should come as no surprise that the list includes all of the city’s closed schools. But let’s start with Market East.
Victor Gruen and Elsie Krummeck, 1946 1020 Market Street, Philadelphia
As interest and activity increases around development of East Market Street, older buildings — some of them historic — may be threatened. That’s certainly the case with the Robinson Store, built by Victor Gruen and Elsie Krummeck, who partnered to design 11 stores for the Grayson-Robinson chain (which sold ladies’ underwear at low prices. Oh, Robinson, where are you now?). Gruen is an especially important figure in commercial architecture, whether you love him or hate him, as he’s known as the inventor of the shopping mall.
The Robinson Store in Center City is easy to pass by without a glance, but as the Alliance points out, it is “the last surviving example of a building campaign that epitomized the use of architecture as advertisement.” It’s a Don Draper dream.
And that’s not all that’s threatened by East Center City development. The former Coward Shoes at 1118 Chestnut is scheduled to be demolished in early 2014 — and that circa-1949 building was designed by Louis Kahn and Oskar Stonorov. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much impossible to tell that either of the buildings were ever especially impressive, so the facades would need to be restored.
As that’s not going to happen with 1118, the Alliance is calling for the restoration of the Robinson façade, which actually would benefit the developer who did it because the store is within a district that incentivizes facade improvements. “It would be a major preservation victory and could anchor any number of redevelopment plans for the rest of the block.”
Now for the other sites…
The mysterious game-changing redevelopment project PREIT has planned for the Gallery has become a little less elusive. Sort of. Since October, PREIT has dropped more hints about what “transformative” retailers will bring to Philadelphia’s retail scene. From the Inquirer:
“We anticipate delivering a project that is a focal point for the City of Philadelphia, drives the transformation of the retail landscape in the city and the evolution of the corridor into a vibrant shopping, entertainment, and dining district.”
Apparently, the positive impact East Market Street gets will come from one of two ways:
“One is a high-fashion anchor center utilizing one of the four high-fashion department stores. Another possible alternative is what we call ‘fast fashion and food,’ if you will, and that is to redevelop [the area] more consistent with some of the more trendy suburban mall tenants – like the Forever 21, the H&M, the Uniqlo.”
The same day that we learned that the Brooklyn Flea brand failed here in Philadelphia, we also learned that its locally based manager, Mark Vevle, was set to launch a new market in Philadelphia with a much more Philly-appropriate name, The Franklin Flea. Here, Vevle tells me what what wrong with the Brooklyn Flea and what to expect from the Franklin Flea, which opens November 16th in the Strawbridge’s building at 8th and Market streets.
Today was the grand opening of 2116 Chestnut (left), a 34-story residential building that already has more than 100 people moved in. Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger, who was intimately involved in making 2116 Chestnut happen, said in a statement that the city “is fast becoming a place of choice for exciting new projects which bring with them investment, new public spaces, and jobs.”
In fact, 2116 Chestnut provided 800 jobs. It was developed by the John Buck Company of Chicago along with the INDURE Fund, whose CEO, Jeff Kanne, trumpeted another indication of the fund’s faith in the city: “the complete revitalization of the Girard Trust Property on Market Street, with a targeted construction date of 2014.”
We assume Kanne is talking about Girard Square (formerly owned by the city-run Girard Trust) between 11th and 12th, for which INDURE has been trying to secure city or state funding for more than a year. (At the groundbreaking for 2116 Chestnut last year, in fact, Kanne told the Inquirer’s Joseph N. DiStefano that any plan he has for Girard Square “depends on getting money.”)
HughE Dillon over at PhillyChitChat says that the Bloomie’s folks have been here four times to look at the Burlington Coat Factory space, and the last time they brought lawyers and a design team.
Gallery owner PREIT did not return an official call for comment, though one person there said he didn’t know anything about it but that he wasn’t approved to comment. Dillon has a really reliable source, though, and the last tip he got from said source panned out exactly as predicted.
As of yesterday, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) officially owns the Kmart at Ninth and Market–the one it paid $60 million for even though many area residents wouldn’t shop there regularly if you paid them $60 million to do so. (They’d be missing out on some serious bargains, however.)
The Design Advocacy Group is a collaborative of very smart people: urban planners, architects, designers and likeminded guardians of the aesthetic who advocate for quality in the built environment. In other words, if a developer is planning something horrendously ugly or damaging to public life in Philadelphia, they’ll hear about it from the DAG.