Chinatown

Throughout its history, 219 N. Broad St. has been closely tied to the always-shifting identity of its surrounding area, beginning with its role in the industrialization of Philadelphia.  The image below, taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas shows that the property was owned by one M.A. Robertson.

The property of M.A. Robertson, 1875

While we aren’t certain what Robertson did during his occupancy, we know that by 1895, the location had become a flour & grain depot.  So denotes the image here below, taken from G.W. Bromley’s Philadelphia Atlas.

Some of facade will remain

About a month ago, we brought the historic building at 230 N. 13th St. to your attention, noting that it was available for sale. We shared some of its history, as NFL Films used the building as its inaugural offices, and Big Brothers Big Sisters was headquartered here for decades until a recent move to Texas. We predicted a mid-rise building would eventually land here, either replacing or incorporating the Art Moderne-style structure designed by William Harold Lee. Man, does it feel good when we're right.

If you like old buildings and such

Everyone loves the NFL (willfully ignoring the world outside of the US). Everyone loves Big Brothers Big Sisters. In Philadelphia, we can look at both through the lens of a historic building.

Football is the most popular sport in America. One of the reasons this sport has grown in popularity and maintained its position on top of the proverbial heap is the work of the people at NFL Films. This company records football games, edits them down, sets the highlights to dramatic music, and adds narration to create an almost cinematic experience for viewers. They started doing their thing in 1965, a mere five years after the Eagles won their last championship. Back then, they were based at 230 N. 13th St., mere steps from the not-yet Vine Street Expressway.

The building

By the 1980s, NFL Films moved to South Jersey and Big Brothers Big Sisters purchased the building. For years, it served as the national headquarters for this wonderful organization, which connects children with adults who want to make a difference in their lives. Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters made the decision to move their national office to Texas, which means their old home is now available for sale.

Major progress since our last visit

We were passing through Chinatown last week, and noticed a new building on 9th Street, just south of Cherry Street. We wondered about the project, so looked for the address on public record and came up empty. The property, which used to be a parking lot, is associated with 908 Cherry St., an old warehouse building most recently used for the "food processing of chicken and meat for wholesale and distribution." Remember, we told you about plans for a residential conversion of this property about a year and a half ago.

Five stories on 9th St.
Around the corner, in the past

Back then, there were plans on the books to create twenty-eight apartments in the building, with ground floor commercial. Somewhere along the line though, the plans changed. The current iteration of the project includes the construction of a three-story addition and fifty-six total apartments. The addition has been added on, and new windows have been installed. We confess, we're disappointed that the new windows don't try to mimic the old ones even a little bit. The building now has much less personality as a result.

Almost a decade ago, plans were tossed around to convert 1106-14 Spring Garden St., more commonly referred to as the Lawsonia building, into six condos, in a project that was to be called "The Sydney" Why didn't the project happen? Why were they going to call it "The Sydney?" Who honestly thought that condos on this block of Spring Garden Street were a good idea back then?

Whatever the answers are to those questions, the project didn't happen. Now, it looks like something is finally on the way here, and it's a much more appropriate project given the location.

Lawsonia building

Last week, developers presented a project to the Callowhill Neighborhood Association to create forty apartment units here, with eighteen parking spots. Based on our reading of the plans, the existing facade will be maintained, with a commercial space of about 9,000 sqft on the first floor. A three story addition will rise above the current building, providing each floor with six 1-bedroom units, two 2-bedroom units, and two 3-bedroom units. The fifth floor units will all have rooftop decks, accessible from inside the apartments. Almost all of the parking will be located underground.

Pages