Will Philadelphia’s Historic Jewelers’ Row Last?

Food for thought.

What are those qualities that give great cities their “strong sense of place” ? We recounted those here some months back, but the one that has our attention today is history and preservation. Because though Philadelphia has that aplenty, it certainly hasn’t held onto all of its worthy heirlooms. The latest that finds itself at a crossroads? Jewelers’ Row, according to Inga Saffron:

Maybe because working factories have virtually vanished from the urban landscape, we rarely think of Philadelphia – never mind Center City – as a place where stuff gets made. Yet, right in the shadow of Washington Square’s pricey high-rise condos, dozens of workshops such as Danta’s have somehow managed to survive on the upper floors of historic Jewelers’ Row.

That doesn’t mean they will be there forever.

Indeed. As Saffron notes, the City of Brotherly Love was at one point populated with niche districts that were in time driven out by “modern innovations such as websites and overnight delivery,” a feature that deemed dense districts “unnecessary.” Jewelers’ Row, is “among the last” of these “economic and social ecosystems in the city.” The question now is how much longer can it survive before ambitious developers, who are already bringing changes to the surrounding area, turn around and see more alluring space to develop?

At the Seventh Street end of the row, luxury condos are already going in at Walnut Street’s Curtis Building, which once housed the printing presses of a national magazine empire. One block east, Tom Scannapieco just broke ground on a 26-story luxury building. Parkway Corp. is even talking about getting rid of its eyesore of a parking lot at Seventh and Chestnut to put up a 32-story tower.

Check out the rest of Saffron’s piece to see how long-established store owners on the Row have tweaked their businesses to fit in, and how some, have “migrated to the Jewelry Trades Building,” the PRDC Properties-owned building dedicated to housing “makers.”

Jewelers’ Row: A space for makers at a crossroads [Changing Skyline]