Morning Q&A: Brooklyn Flea’s Manager Says PREIT Is Working on a Market Street Transformation
Brooklyn Flea Philly’s local manager Mark Vevle spoke with Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo about what happened to the market in the Piazza and what’s coming next, which frankly sounds much better: It’s called the Franklin Flea and it’ll be in the old Strawbridge’s building on Saturdays, rather than compete with football on Sundays.
Minnesota native Vevle told Fiorillo Brooklyn Flea Philly was an experiment: “They were proud of the following that we did have and of the vendors that were there. But their vision for what they wanted the market to be and how big they wanted it to be, it didn’t get there by the end of the season.” (Again we say: The Piazza.) Vevle was offered other opportunities with the Brooklyn Flea folks, but after three years here, he’s fallen in love with Philly. “I do like New York, but Philadelphia is more affordable and a more manageable size.”
When Vevle was considering real estate for the new Franklin Flea, he was “really looking for something downtown with a big floor plate, that’s historic, and that people haven’t been in for a while.” The old Strawbridge’s — owned by PREIT, which always owns the Gallery — was perfect. The space itself, Vevle says, was pretty raw. “They’ve taken out all of the fixtures and furnishings. But there are beautiful marble floors and big brass chandeliers and columns.”
Interestingly, Vevle says, “PREIT has slowly been assembling properties along that whole corridor and is working on what sounds like the transformation of that area. So they’ve been keeping Strawbridge’s in tip top shape to show prospective tenants. When we do a market like this, it activates the space so that the public can imagine what it can be again.”
Vevle says, “I suppose that East Market isn’t the most glamorous part of town” (he catches on quick) “but it certainly has a high volume of people coming in on commuter rail lines from the suburbs for work” (true enough) “and you have an incredibly loyal and well-educated group of people living in Washington Square West that are in walking distance (build it and they will come. Because otherwise, they would not.) “It will be a really interesting mix.”
Chances are, the Franklin Flea won’t stay at Strawbridge’s forever, given how neighborhoody Philadelphia is, says Vevle. “People are proud of their neighborhoods and they hunker down where they live, especially on weekends. So I am thinking, what if I locate it in a different place every two months? That involves some site selection and working out multiple leases.” He also says PREIT may be able to facilitate other nearby locations.
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