Coming to the Marketplace Design Center: The “Family Apartment”

PMC Property Group, one of the largest managers of small apartments, is now thinking big.

An interior shot of the Marketplace Design Center by MikeWebkist via Flickr.

An interior shot of the Marketplace Design Center by MikeWebkist via Flickr.

Apartments in Philadelphia generally come in three sizes: small (studio), medium (one bedroom), and large (two-bedroom), with small and medium dominating.

A new development that will transform a Schuylkill riverside landmark is about to rewrite that formula in response to changing demographics and trends. Instead of small, medium and large, the apartments in this new project will come in medium, large and extra large.

Next year, PMC Property Group will begin work on a project that will turn the Marketplace Design Center at 2401 Market St. into a mixed-use building that will include office space, street-level retail, a hotel and apartments in addition to a reconfigured showcase for interior designers.

To effect the transformation, part of the building’s existing exterior will be demolished to make way for new entrances and public spaces. (The demolition will also spell the end for the Wyland whale mural on the center’s west wall.) That work will get under way in June 2015, after the current design showrooms are consolidated onto the building’s second and third floors. The first floor will be turned into entrance lobbies and retail space and the fourth floor will become offices along with two new floors above it. On top of that will be 13 floors of apartments on the Market Street side of the building and a 150-room hotel on the Chestnut Street side, with its own separate entrance.

Jonathan Stavin, PMC’s executive vice president, explained the thinking behind the project at yesterday’s Central Philadelphia Development Corporation monthly meeting, which featured a forum on turning the Schuylkill from a border between Center City and University City to a central element joining the two together as a single hub of residence and employment. The project is designed so it can be built in phases, but Stavin expects the entire project to be built in a single phase.

The growth of Center City’s residential population and its expansion into the Market Street West office canyon, combined with the evolution of University City into a second major “downtown” employment center, have created a “donut hole” on the east bank of the Schuylkill, he said, and this project aims to fill it.

“Dean Adler [PMC’s development partner] convinced [PMC President] Ron Caplan that this was an exciting place we had to go,” he explained. “I think this will be the most exciting mixed-use project in the city.”

The continued presence of the Design Center will certainly make it distinctive. But what will make it stand out from the other residential construction taking place around it, and from the apartments PMC has built and managed to date, is the mix of apartments.

“We’re the company that provides your first apartment,” he told the audience. Small one-bedroom and studio apartments make up the overwhelming bulk of PMC’s inventory. With the expanded Marketplace project, the company now wants to supply your next apartment – the one that a young Millennial couple, say, would occupy when they decide to have children.

Or when they want to pay their parents back for housing them while they launched their lives. Of the 300 apartments planned for this development, 70 percent will be one-bedroom units, 20 percent two-bedroom units, and 10 percent three-bedroom units. The three-bedroom apartments, Stavin said, are aimed not only at families with children but also at young adults with older relatives living with them.

Stavin said that PMC hopes to create a self-contained 24-hour live/work/play environment at the Marketplace. “Everything you could need will be in the building,” he said.

Well, maybe not groceries, but with Trader Joe’s nearby at 22nd and Market, that should not be a deal-breaker.

Stavin said the development will also draw people into and through it from the adjacent blocks, in part by offering a street-level extension of the Schuylkill riverside promenade.

Update Thursday, Dec. 18th, 12:17pm: This post has been changed to correct a quote.